Egypt: Jailed for “blasphemy” & “disturbing peace”

July 4, 2014 by  
Filed under newsletter-world

Egyptian ChristianEgypt, July 1, 2014: Three Egyptian Christians have been sentenced to jail in separate cases: two charged under Egypt’s “blasphemy” law, the other accused of “disturbing the peace” by broadcasting information related to anti-Christian violence.

The two blasphemy cases involve Kerolos Shouky Attallah (29), who was said to have defamed Islam by “liking” a Facebook page deemed offensive by Muslims, and Demiana Ebeid Abdelnour (25), a school teacher who was accused of insulting Islam during a lesson.

Kerolos was sentenced to six years in prison on 24 June, having been found guilty of two offences under the Egyptian Penal Code, Article 98F, defaming a divinely revealed religion, and Article 176, inciting sectarian violence. He will appeal against the verdict.

He was accused after clicking the “like” button on a Facebook page run by a group of converts from Islam to Christianity, the Knights of the Cross. The page features posts about Christian and Islamic teachings and is intended to encourage Arabic-speaking converts from Islam in their faith. Kerolos did not add any content to the page or interact with posts by others.

Local Muslims in Kerolos’ home village of El-Mahameed near Luxor took offence and launched an attack on his house and torched other Christian-owned property.

Demiana’s case was an appeal against her original sentence − a fine of 100,000 Egyptian Pounds (US$14,000; £8,000) − issued last June. The judge on 15 June replaced the fine with a jail term of six months.

She is currently in exile, and the ruling effectively means that she will never be able to return to Egypt, separating her from her family, who cannot afford to leave the country. Demiana will now apply for political asylum, most likely in France.

The social science teacher from Luxor was arrested in May 2013 following a complaint from parents that she had defamed Islam during a school lesson. The majority of Demiana’s students denied that she had insulted Islam in her class, and an internal school investigation found her innocent. The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) said she had only “presented a comparison between religions in ancient, middle and modern ages as mentioned in the curriculum”.

In the third case, Bishoy Armia Boulous (31) was sentenced on 18 June to five years in prison and given a fine of 500 Egyptian Pounds (US£70; £40) for “disturbing the peace by broadcasting false information”. He was arrested on 4 December in Minya after reporting on the aftermath of anti-Christian violence for a Christian TV channel.  Attacks on Christians and their property in Minya have been widely reported.

His lawyer, Wagdy Halfa, believes that Bishoy has been targeted because of his conversion from Islam. The Christian, formerly Mohammed Hegazy, gained notoriety in Egypt in 2007 as the first person to try to change his religion on his ID card. A court ruled against him in January 2008, and in April 2010, an appeals court suspended the case indefinitely while awaiting the outcome of another case dealing with religious identity. Egypt has since been plunged into turmoil with two revolutions and two new constitutions, and Bishoy’s case has been unresolved.

He has suffered severe persecution over the matter and was forced into hiding as a result of attacks and death threats.

Following his arrest in December, Bishoy has been tortured and attacked in prison.

– barnabas team

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