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Political bloggers jailed, detained

It's been a bad week for bloggers in Libya, Egypt and China, where authorities are cracking down on online critics.

Libya has sentenced a blogger to a year and a half in prison after he criticized the government in his online articles, according to Human Rights Watch.

The jailing, which the rights group reported Thursday, is one of several recent crackdowns on bloggers by authoritarian governments. The group also confirmed Friday that Egyptian authorities have detained a university student who had criticized the government and Islamic fundamentalism in his blog in what may be the first such case in the country.

Meanwhile, free press advocate Reporters Without Borders is calling on China to reopen a blog it shut down recently. The pro-democracy blog was nominated for a free speech award in Germany just days before its closure, the Paris-based organization said.

In the Libya case, a court in Tripoli convicted blogger Abd al-Raziq al-Mansuri, 52, on charges of illegal handgun possession earlier this month, Human Rights Watch said. But al-Mansuri and his family, which has denounced his arrest and sentence, say it's an attempt to silence dissent.

"The gun charges are a ruse," Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. "The authorities went after al-Mansuri because they did not like what he wrote."

The arrest came after al-Mansuri published some 50 articles on the U.K.-based Web site, in which he criticized Libyan society and government. The arrest was carried out by the Internal Security Agency, who confiscated his computer, papers and compact discs and questioned him about his articles, he told Human Rights Watch. In a search of al-Mansuri's home the next day, agents found an old pistol belonging to his father, the rights group said.

The family said Libyan authorities asked them to proclaim that al-Mansuri is deranged. Human Rights Watch said the Libyan government has not responded to requests for more information about the case.

In Egypt, authorities have detained Abdolkarim Nabil Seliman, a 21-year-old law student who wrote critically of the government and of Islamic fundamentalism in a blog. Human Rights Watch confirmed reports of Seliman's arrest that have been circulating among other Egyptian bloggers, but the organization said it's unclear whether blogging is the reason for the arrest.

Just before his arrest, Seliman, who attends the prestigious Al-Azhar University, had railed in his blog against Muslims who rioted at a Christian church in Alexandria. His family told the Associated Press that police had confiscated some of his books and printed copies of his blog articles.

Wang Yi, a teacher at China's Chengdu University, said authorities there ordered the company that hosted his blog to shut it down, Reporters Without Borders said this week. Yi had battled local police for six months before that to thwart filtering technology meant to block access to the site, he told the group.

German radio station Deutsche Welle had nominated Yi's site in the "freedom of expression" category of its blog contest. In one of his last articles, Yi wrote about an allegedly corrupt village chief in Guandong province and peasants' campaign to remove him.