Some football, Egypt & a thrashing

I’m going to be upfront in today’s blog – there’s only a tenuous link at best between England’s 3-1 footballing victory over Egypt at Wembley last night and the impending military trial of Egyptian blogger Ahmed Mustafa. In fact it’s just that they both involve Egypt. But I wanted to write about both, so I will.

While the reportage of the match last night has got caught up in the whole ‘were the crowd/players supportive of John Terry?’ nonsense, we shouldn’t overlook the achievement of the England team last night. Egypt are a good side, they’ve just won the African Cup of Nations, and they had a 1-0 lead after Mathew Upson slipped and lost his man. To win that game 3-1 is pretty impressive. And I’ve always liked Peter Crouch too: he does what Emile Heskey can do, plus he can score (twice last night, in fact, and 18 other times in an England shirt). I’d be tempted to have him in my starting eleven for England, holding the ball up for Rooney.

That’s probably enough football, though I’d be interested to hear from any football fans who read this blog if you think Defoe/Heskey/Carlton Cole/Agbonlahour/Owen should be partnering Rooney instead.

As for the trial of Ahmed Mustafa, it’s not the first case of the Egyptian authorities coming down hard on a blogger to make an example of him. Kareem Amer, another blogger, has now been behind bars for 1214 days and has another year to go – there’s a really impressive campaigning site in support for him. Ahmed’s crime appears to have been that he used his blog to insinuate that some nepotism was at work in Egypt’s elite military academy  when, as the BBC reports, “a teacher's son was pushed out of the academy, to make way for the son of a more influential individual who could make financial contributions”.

Given that he’s just expressing his peaceful opinion, any criminal proceedings are going to raise some concerns about the right to free speech. But Ahmed has been hauled before one of Egypt’s military courts, which we at Amnesty have described as “grossly unfair”.

I’ve been briefing our Director, Kate Allen, for a BBC World interview this week about the power of the Internet and how technology is used both to expose human rights and campaign against them, but also how it’s used by repressive governments to spy on their citizens and control the information that they can access. Plus it’s only a week ago that we had an auditorium full of bloggers here at the Human Rights Action Centre to discuss the impact of technology on human rights.

So I’d like to balance-out this bad news with an example of how technology can be used to expose human rights abusers. This footage of Pakistani police thrashing a robbery suspect was broadcast on national TV after someone filmed it on their mobile phone. The officials have now been arrested. Maybe 10 years ago this simply couldn’t have happened.

So with a little help from technology it’s not quite 3-1 to those who support human rights, but at least we’re scraping a draw.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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