Beshoy Kamil Kamel Al-Behery, a member of the Coptic Christian community, was sentenced to six years in prison after he was convicted of being contemptuous of religion and for insulting the president on Facebook, Al Jazeera has reported.
According to Al Jazeera, the trial was held in Sohag, the capital of the Upper Egypt Governorate of Sohag, after protests by Salafists forced the authorities to relocate the trial more than once. Al-Behery was escorted by security through a backdoor after hearing the verdict to protect him from protesters who had gathered outside the trial.
Al-Behery’s defence claimed his Facebook account had been hacked as an explanation why cartoons making fun of the prophet Muhammad and posts insulting President Mohamed Morsy had been placed online. Al-Behery received three years for being in contempt of religion, two years for insulting the president and one year for insulting the person who filed the case against him.
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) denounced the court’s decision, according to a statement on their website. The EIPR said the loosely drafted charge of contempt of religion included in the penal code leaves the door open for violating freedom of opinion and expression and stifling creativity and the freedom of belief itself.
EIPR also said it was odd that Al-Beheiry was sentenced to two years for insulting the president, adding that the president is only a public servant who the people have the right to openly criticize. Their statement said that granting the president immunity from criticism leaves the door wide open for dictatorship.
The EIPR said this was not the first time a religious contempt trial has had protesters gather outside, adding that authorities should provide safe conditions where the defence and judiciary can work without threats or pressure.
Al-Beheiry’s lawyer has filed an appeal, expected to be heard on 27 September.