Writer and activist Karam Saber’s trial date has been moved from Tuesday to 12 November, according to his lawyer Mohammed Mahmoud.
Saber is challenging a May 2013 court decision sentencing him in absentia to five years in prison for contempt of religion and defamation handed down by the Beni Suef misdemeanour court. He initially appealed the ruling on 10 September, but the court was adjourned until 22 October.
The case against Saber goes back to April 2011, when Islamists in Beni Suef filed a lawsuit over Saber’s short story collection “Where Is God?”, the author told state-run Ahram Online. The book was deemed to be offensive to religion by both the Ben Suef Coptic diocese and by Al-Azhar.
According to Mahmoud, Saber is currently in Egypt, and out of prison on bail.
Human rights watchdog the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) has widely denounced the case against Saber, and has helped with his legal defence.
“The procedures that are being taken during the trial of Karam Saber and the ongoing threat of imprisonment because of the [contempt of religion] case clearly emphasise the necessity of drafting a constitutional provision to prevent the misuse of litigation to censor works of art and creativity…” said ANHRI in a Monday statement.
“ANHRI demands the termination of this mockery trial for the freedom of creativity and expression, and to clear the author Karam Saber as well as to drop all the accusations against him.”
In May, Saber told Al-Ahram that no religious institution, including Al-Azhar and the Church, should have a role in interfering in any literary work or impose restrictions.
International human rights advocate Amnesty International has also condemned the rise of blasphemy cases in Egypt.
“So-called ‘defamation of religion’ charges should not be used as a pretext to trample over people’s right to freedom of expression and conscience, and all such charges should be dropped, and the resulting convictions overturned,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa director, in a June statement.