The Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) held a meeting to discuss the case of writer Karam Saber who was sentenced in absentia for a book he published.
The Wednesday meeting was attended by lawyers, journalists and writers who discussed the content of the book as well as the legal aspects of Saber’s case. ANHRI provided a summary of what the speakers said in a statement on Thursday.
Saber’s book titled “Where is Allah,” is made up of several short stories and was published in 2010. Saber’s sentence of five years in absentia and a bail of EGP 1,000 came after a group of people in Beni Suef governorate filed a complaint against Saber at Beni Suef’s prosecutor general’s office in 2011, accusing him of contempt of religion.
The book was analyzed by both the Beni Suef diocese and Al-Azhar which both released similar reports saying that the book goes against religion.
After the reports were released, the case was referred to Homeland Security which confirmed the reports of the religious institutions.
In ANHRI’s statement on the meeting, the speakers described the book as one that focuses on the popular culture of farmers and the role it can play in helping overcome ugliness and in enriching the lives of people, in accordance with the values they believe.
“In that sense, it is not a book on religious jurisprudence or religion… and it is known that literary works do not impose an opinion…” the statement read.
Saber is the Director of the Land Centre for Human Rights which provides human rights assistance to farmers. The speakers in the Wednesday meeting suggested that the testimonies against the writer are a result of personal feuds by police and Ministry of Endowments representatives because of Saber’s work defending farmers’ rights.
In an interview Saber gave Aswat Masriya, he said, “what I find surprising is the involvement of religious institutions and even security institutions in issues related to freedom of creativity,” Saber said.
The sentence was handed to Saber earlier this year and a hearing to appeal the sentence is scheduled for next Tuesday.
ANHRI claims that this is the harshest sentence handed to a writer in the past 20 years.