Amnesty condemns rise of blasphemy cases

Amnesty International released a statement on Tuesday condemning the rise of blasphemy cases in Egypt.

The international human rights advocacy organisation said blasphemy trials in Egypt are targeted mainly against bloggers, media professionals and Coptic Christians, especially those living in Upper Egypt.

According to the statement, the conviction of Demiana Abdel Nour, a 24-year-old teacher in Luxor accused of defaming Islam and insulting the Prophet Muhammad, “bodes ill for others in Egypt who have been facing trial on similar charges.”

Parents of students at the Sheikh Sultan Primary School in Luxor had filed a complaint against Abdel Nour after she allegedly compared Prophet Muhammad to Pope Shenouda III, claiming that he performed more miracles than the prophet. On Tuesday she was fined EGP 100,000

Abdel Nour was taken into custody on 8 May, which Amnesty International had condemned in a statement two days later and demanded her “immediately release and the criminal case against her dropped.”

The human rights organisation added that the goal for such cases is to condemn and criminalise criticism of religious beliefs.

“Slapping criminal charges with steep fines and, in most cases, prison sentences against people for simply speaking their mind or holding different religious beliefs is simply outrageous,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa director, in the report.

Luther added that defamation of religion charges should not be used to “trample over people’s right to freedom of expression and conscience” and demanded that all charges be dropped.

The statement also condemned the verdict against Rumany Murad, a 25-year-old Christian lawyer, which sentenced him in absentia to one year imprisonement, in addition to an EGP 500 fine and EGP 100,000 compensation for the plaintiffs.

Two of Murad’s fellow lawyers in Assiut had filed a lawsuit against him, accusing him of insulting Islam, according to the Amnesty statement.

The statement also said none of Murad’s lawyers attended the opening of the court case on 27 April since they were threatened by Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya’s political wing, the Construction and Development Party.

Murad is expected to appeal the sentence and ask for the case to be transferred to the court in Cairo.