Amnesty International has hit out at the trial of an Egyptian blogger, which it claims expands repression in the country.
Karim Amer is the first Egyptian blogger to be put on trial after he criticised Egypt's al-Azhar religious authorities, President Husni Mubarak and Islam.
Charges against him include "spreading information disruptive of public order and damaging to the country’s reputation", "incitement to hate Islam" and " defaming the president of the Republic".
Amer faces up to 10 years in prison, and Amnesty International has called for his immediate and unconditional release.
"Karim Amer's trial appears intended as a warning by the authorities to other bloggers who dare to criticise the government or use their blogs to spread information considered harmful to Egypt's reputation," said Malcolm Smart, director of the Middle East and North Africa programme at Amnesty.
"This is particularly worrying as bloggers have increasingly been posting information about human rights abuses in Egypt, including torture and police violence against peaceful protesters."
The trial opened on 18 January before the Maharram Bek Court in Alexandria, and Amer was charged under articles 102, 176 and 179 of Egypt's Penal Code.
Amnesty said it had urged the Egyptian authorities to review or abolish legislation that stipulates prison sentences for the mere exercise of the rights of freedom of expression, thought, conscience and religion.
"Amnesty International considers Karim Amer to be a prisoner of conscience who is being prosecuted on account of the peaceful expression of his views about Islam and the al-Azhar religious authorities," said Smart.
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