The case of political activist Alber Saber has been adjourned until 17 October. Saber, who remains in preventative imprisonment, faces charges of “contempt of the Islamic and Christian faiths,” and “insulting god” at the Marg Misdemeanour Court.
The prosecution lawyer accused Saber of insulting Muhammad, Jesus, the Virgin Mary and the angel Gabriel. He added that, “the defendant went even further and insulted God himself.”
“Egyptian society is built upon respecting religions and the defendant clearly went against that value,” the prosecutor said.
The court heard Saber accused of starting Facebook pages that offend both the Muslim and Christian religions and offend God. The prosecution added that the “defendant believes humanity to be a product of nature.”
“He spread his extreme views on the social media websites Facebook and Twitter with the deliberate intent of causing sectarian strife,” the lawyer said before demanding Saber be dealt the maximum prison sentence of five years.
Saber’s lawyers asked for his release and an adjournment of the case until they could review its details, since they had not been allowed to view the case files.
“The defence was not allowed to this very moment to view the details of this case and thus we ask it be adjourned and the defendant set free until his defence team have had a chance to properly look at the case,” defence lawyer Ahmed Seif Al-Islam said.
Mahmoud Refaat, a lawyer, demanded nominal damages of EGP 51 for compensation, since the defendant’s actions “hurt him morally, physically and psychologically.”
Kariman Maseeha, Saber’s mother, was sobbing throughout the trial and refused to sit at a bench, preferring to stand by the cage that would eventually house her son during the proceedings.
When Saber was brought to court, he was calm and composed but showed signs of mistreatment. Previously, another prisoner had attacked Saber with a razor blade after a police officer told him it was Saber who spread the Innocence of Muslims movie.
“Alber was arrested during the whole offensive film incident and was accused of sharing it on Facebook. The prosecution found no evidence of that but then took CDs from his house and charged him based on their content,” said Ahmed Ezzat, a lawyer with Saber’s defence team.
According to Ezzat, Saber makes videos that discuss various religious ideas and figures, calling on his audience to think critically about them.
Ezzat added that the charges Saber faces are very vague and could mean one of three things: provocation of members of a religious group, denouncing prophets or other religious figures, and calling for violence against certain religious groups.
He said Saber did not provoke anyone or call for any violence, and that the third definition should not be a crime as it lies under freedom of expression and religion, citing a March 2011Constitutional Decree article that states the freedom of belief is unlimited.
Ezzat added that Abu Islam Abdullah, who is also accused of contempt of religion and burning a Bible, was not subjected to preventative imprisonment, and that his case did not go through procedures as fast as Saber’s did, Ezzat said Saber was being subjected to religious discrimination because he comes from a Coptic Christian background while Abdullah’s is Muslim.
He said that he was chastised by the prosecution during the investigation who asked him how he could, as a Muslim lawyer, defend someone accused of insulting Islam. Ezzat said such incidents made him doubt the objectivity of the prosecution and said that if the prosecution was biased then the court will receive biased evidence to work with.
“I have filed a civil suit because the defendant’s actions have harmed me psychologically, physically and morally,” Refaat said after the trial. He then cited a Quranic verse calling for the crucifixion of those who insult God and Muhammad.
“He [Saber] has offended the Muslim and Christian religions and claimed that Muhammad wrote the Quran himself, so that he can marry as many women as he pleased,” added Refaat.
Maseeha told journalists after the trial that she believed someone was behind her son’s imprisonment. As of yet, the identity of the plaintiff who reported Saber to the police remains unknown.
“Why is all of this happening to Alber now? My son has been politically active since 2008? Why would the police arrest him when I called them to protect him,” she said.
The prosecution asked both Saber and his mother what they believed about the Quran and Muhammad, she said, adding that she did not understand why such questions were relevant or even being asked.
“They say he is promoting sectarian strife? Who is promoting sectarian strife when my door is kicked down and my house surrounded by angry mobs threatening to burn me and the church next to our house.” She said.
Maseeha was forced to leave her house by the mobs that surrounded it. She has not been able to return since.