TV presenter and Editor-in-Chief of El-Tahrir newspaper Ibrahim Eissa has been found not guilty of contempt of religion by the Dokki Misdemeanour Court.
The issue dates back to November 2012, when Eissa cited verses from the Quran and used them to criticise the then president Mohamed Morsi.
The original verse translates to “gone from me is my authority”. Eissa then played on the phonetics of the word “authority” to mock Morsi.
Eissa’s comment effectively said that Morsi is unfit to be president.
The lawyers who brought the charges against Eissa accused him of insulting Islam and the verses of the Holy Book, and investigations into the case had been ordered one year ago.
Eissa has denied that his comments demonstrated contempt of religion and said that his remarks came in the context of criticising the president, not Quranic verses.
Investigations and trials for contempt of religion have dramatically increased since 2011.
By Septmber 2013, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) was able to track down 63 cases of defamation of religion since early 2011. The rate at which individuals were found guilty outside of Cairo was 100%. A report by the rights group said that 59% of the defendants are Muslims and 41% are Christians.
The Association for Freedom of Though and Expression and EIPR both believe in the importance of cancelling provisions, whether in the constitution or the law, that criminalise the criticism of religions.
“The continued trial of citizens for expressing their opinion in religious matters and issues is considered reinforcement to massive restrictions on freedom of expression in Egypt,” the two groups said in a joint statement in November 2013.
In December 2012, blogger Alber Saber was sentenced to three years in prison on charges of “contempt of the Muslim and Christian religions” after prosecutors accused him of starting Facebook pages that offend both God and the Muslim and Christian religions. Alber, an open atheist, paid EGP 1,000 for bail and filed an appeal before leaving the country.
Meanwhile, writer Karam Saber is currently challenging a court decision sentencing him in absentia to five years in prison for contempt of religion and defamation over a short story collection he had written.