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Release of student accused of contempt of religion appealed

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Suez Canal University student accused of creating an atheist Facebook page remains in custody pending an appeal by prosecution

Public prosecution in Ismailia appealed a decision to release a student being investigated for contempt of religion. Ismailia Criminal Court is scheduled to consider the appeal on Tuesday.

Sherif Gaber, a student at Suez Canal University, was initially set to be released from detention on Monday on EGP 5,000 bail according to the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE).

Gaber was initially arrested on 26 October after students at his university collected signatures and submitted them to the president of the university to investigate him for allegedly creating an atheist Facebook page.

The university president then filed a police report after which Gaber was subsequently arrested pending investigation.

Rights groups AFTE and the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) condemned the decision to detain the student. Following his arrest Gaber was handed a four day detention before being handed successive 15-day detention stints pending investigation.

The two groups condemned continued criminal prosecution for citizens expressing their views on religious matters, calling the recent developments a manifestation of “the enormous restrictions on freedom of expression in Egypt,” adding that such crackdowns were in breach of Egypt’s internal obligations as stipulated by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and principles of freedom of opinion and expression.

The group also condemned the role of the university president in handling the issue, saying the administration neglected its duty to ensure the university served as a “beacon to ensure the rights of students to think and express their views.”

EIPR and AFTE also called on Gaber’s charges to be dropped and for the abolition of penal provisions that criminilise the criticism of religions.


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