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Egyptian sentenced to 6 months for contempt of religion

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Luxor teacher is the second to be jailed for contempt of religion this year

A Luxor school teacher was sentenced Sunday to six months in prison for contempt of religion, a charge stemming from an incident in which the teacher allegedly insulted religion in front of her students.

According to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, the teacher, 23 year-old Demiana Emad only “presented a comparison between religions in ancient, middle and modern ages as mentioned in the curriculum”.

Emad was also fined EGP 100,000. Sunday’s verdict cannot be appealed.

The teacher is the second person to be charged with contempt of religion in 2014. Writer Karam Saber was found guilty of contempt of religion over a book of short stories he published entitled “Where is God”.

Saber is accused of promoting infidelity, inciting polytheism and insulting God. Saber’s defence team suggested the testimonies against the writer are a result of personal feuds between Saber and police and Ministry of Endowments representatives because of Saber’s work defending farmers’ rights.

Gamal Eid, a human rights lawyer on Saber’s defence team and director of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, claimed that the verdict is “the harshest sentence handed to [a writer] in the past 20 years”.

In February of this year, TV presenter and Editor-in-Chief of El-Tahrir newspaper Ibrahim Eissa was 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.

A Christian man named Kirollos Shawki has also been accused of contempt of religion. Shawki was arrested by police after local residents complained that that he “liked” a social media page entitled “the knights of Christ”, according to Ishak Ibrahim, a researcher for the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. His next trial date is set for 24 June.

Freedom of religion is guaranteed in Article 64 of the 2014 Constitution. However, only “revealed” (or Abrahamic) religions are ensured “the freedom of practicing religious rituals and establishing places of worship”.


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