An Egyptian computer science graduate and blogger, Alber Saber, downloaded a video considered offensive to Muslims. When neighbors threatened him and his family, Cairo police responded by searching his computer and arresting him for blasphemy. A court sentenced Saber to three years in jail. CCS protested the failure to respect his right of expression and the continued lack of police protection for Alber’s Copt Christian family.
President of the Arab Republic of Egypt
Dr. Mohamed Morsi
c/o Embassy of Egypt to the United States
3521 International Court NW
Washington DC 20008
January 7, 2013
We are an independent organization of scientists, physicians, engineers and scholars devoted to the protection and advancement of human rights and scientific freedom for colleagues all over the world. We write now in concern about Alber Saber.
According to media reports, Alber Saber, a 27 year old computer science graduate of Cairo Univesity and Thebes Academy, was sentenced to three years in jail on December 12, 2012, for “blasphemy and contempt of religion.” Saber allegedly uploaded sections of the film “Innocence of Muslims,” a video made in California that portrays the prophet Mohammed in an unfavorable light and is offensive to Muslims. In announcing the verdict, the court in Cairo said Saber can be released on a bail pending his appeal.
Saber has denied promoting the video, according to news reports, that also state that police searched his computer and found other statements critical of religion forming the basis of his arrest. In either case, Saber was exercising his right of free speech, as protected by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to which Egypt is a signatory.
News reports also claim that Egyptian police failed to protect his home and family from an outraged mob when called for protection and instead, focused on Saber’s arrest. According to Saber’s family, Saber was assaulted by other prisoners in jail and his mother and sister had to flee their home, all because of lack of protection from authorities . We are also concerned by the fact that Saber is a Christian Copt and that both lack of police protection and the severe verdict are acts of discrimination against an important Egyptian religious minority.
Amnesty International condemned the verdict and said it considered Saber “a prisoner of conscience detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression.” The London-based group also demanded Saber be freed immediately and that all charges against him be dropped.
We join Amnesty in urging you to investigate this case and to reverse the verdict against Saber. We also urge you to order local authorities to provide Saber and his family with adequate protection under local and international law.
Thank you for your consideration.
Co-Chairs, Committee of Concerned Scientists
Ambassador Mohamed M. Tawfic, 3521 International Court NW, Washington DC 20008
US Ambassador to Egypt Anne W. Patterson, Embassy of the US, 5 Tawfic Diab St. Garden City, Cairo, Egypt
M. Heiner Bielefeldt, Special UN Rapporteur on freedeom of religion or belief, OHCHR, Palais des Nations, CH-1211, Geneva, Switzerland
Asst. Secretary of State Michael Posner, US Department of State, 2201 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20520
UN Special Raporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief M. Heiner Bielefeldt, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
- Egyptian Atheist Alber Saber Convicted and Sentenced to Three Years in Prison for Blasphemy (patheos.com)
- Alber Saber Leaves Egypt, Laments its Political Situation (patheos.com)
- Alber Saber: Brotherhood will drive the people to secularism (Daily News Egypt)