Egypt: Rights groups condemn sentence for Christian

June 14, 2013 by  
Filed under newsletter-world

Romani Murad Saad works as a lawyer in AssuitEgypt, June 10, 2013: Egyptian human rights groups have condemned a jail sentence issued to a Christian lawyer for insulting Islam; they also raised concerns about the rising number of such cases against Christians.

The group of 15 organisations released a statement last week denouncing the decision of a misdemeanour court in Assiut to sentence Romani Murad Saad to a year in prison with hard labour plus a fine of 10,000 Egyptian Pounds (£920; US$1,430). The penalty was issued on 1 June in Romani’s absence.

An accusation was filed against the Christian in July 2012 by a number of Islamist lawyers. They claimed that he had insulted the Islamic religion during a discussion that took place at the Lawyers’ Syndicate in Assiut. The dispute had started in May following comments Romani had made on Facebook about the presidential elections.

Expressing their concern about the growing number of “contempt of religion” lawsuits against Christians, the statement from the human rights groups said:

We denounce these types of cases that target freedom of opinion and expression.

Such lawsuits have become a weapon of sectarian discrimination and oppression of religious minorities.

It criticised the authorities for failing to amend the laws that govern such cases and also for prosecuting individuals without solid evidence.

A recent report by the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), one of the organisations that signed the statement, ranked Egypt third among Arab countries with the most violations of freedom of expression in 2012.

Romani is the latest in a growing line of Christians to face legal action for insulting Islam. Last month, Demiana Ebeid Abdelnour, a Christian teacher, was detained over allegations that she defamed Islam during a school lesson.

At a court hearing on 4 June, it was ruled that her case would be deferred. A member of Demiana’s defence team said that “chaos dominated the session… especially from the lawyers of the Islamic trend”. The Islamists tried to prevent crucial defence witnesses from giving evidence.

Islamist lawyers had similarly commandeered the trial of Makram Diab, a Christian man jailed last year for insulting Muhammad.

– barnabas team

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