- (Photo: Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)
Alber Saber, the young Egyptian atheist who was recently sentenced to three years imprisonment for blasphemy and contempt for religion, has spoken out on the direction of Egypt's new Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government, saying it is just as oppressive as the government run by former President Hosni Mubarak.
"They are no different from the former regime," Saber, 27, told The Associated Press regarding Egypt's current president Mohamed Morsi's regime, which carries the heavy influence of the Muslim Brotherhood political party.
"The weapons have changed, but they are both oppressive regimes," Saber added, telling AP that both Mubarak's regime and Morsi's regime have a strong network of alliances to stifle political dissent in the North African country.
Saber believes he was used by the Egyptian government as an example of what can happen to those who disagree with Islam.
Saber was arrested in early September after his neighbors accused him of promoting the short video "Innocence of Muslims", which sparked deadly protests throughout the Middle East and Egypt due to its apparent irreverence toward the prophet Mohammed.
Saber, an avowed atheist, denied promoting the film, and was then sentenced to three years imprisonment for blasphemy and contempt for religion due to other comments Egyptian authorities found on his computer.
Saber was released on bail on Tuesday, Dec. 18 and is pending a January appeal after he paid a $167 fee, but the young atheist does not believe this is the last time one will be arrested for expressing their opinion regarding Egypt's religion or government.
"Egypt is a religious state," Saber told AP.
"If you disobey the norms, you get judged and sentenced. I'm not a criminal, but I'm being judged and sentenced on my opinion," he added.
Since Morsi took control of the country in June 2012, the new leader has received a substantial amount of criticism for pandering to the demands of his Muslim Brotherhood political party, although the newly minted president continues to assert his plans for democracy.
The most recent example can be seen through the draft constitution, which was hastily approved by a Muslim majority last month without the presence of Christian and liberal leaders, and includes provisions which questionably limit personal freedoms, including religion.
One such provision increases the level of crime for insulting religion.
The draft constitution was recently approved by a slight 56 percent majority vote, and many still fear that the ability to freely express religion will be greatly hindered.
Blasphemy cases reportedly have been on the rise since the ousting of Mubarak in Feb. 2011.
"Expect to see many more blasphemy prosecutions in the future now that it's embedded as a crime in the constitution," Heba Morayef, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, previously told The New York Times.