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An Egyptian blogger found guilty of insulting both Islam and the country's president has been jailed for four years, Reuters reports.

An Alexandria court sentenced former law student Abdel Karim Suleiman for eight articles he wrote in 2004. He had been in custody since November last year over the polemical outpourings which included one claiming that "al-Azhar in Cairo, one of the most prominent seats of Sunni Muslim learning, was promoting extreme ideas".

Another ill-advised musing - headlined The Naked Truth of Islam as I Saw it - reportedly "accused Muslims of savagery during clashes between Muslims and Christians in Alexandria in 2005".

Regarding Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, Suleiman "likened him to the dictatorial pharaohs who ruled ancient Egypt".

Human rights groups and "opposition bloggers" have been keeping a close eye on the case, fearing the conviction "could set a legal precedent limiting internet freedom in Egypt".

As Reuters notes, the internet "has emerged as a major forum for critics of the Egyptian government to express their views in a country where the large daily newspapers and main television stations are state-run".

One anonymous blogger told the news agency: "It's a dangerous precedent because it will impact the only free space available now, which is the internet. The charges were undefined and vague. Tell me. What does insulting the president mean? What is the difference between criticising religion and being in contempt of religion?" ®

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