A court session scheduled for 4 January is set to decide on a demand submitted by TV presenter Islam Al-Beheiry to suspend the prison sentence handed to him on Monday, state media reported Wednesday.
El-Beheiry requested that the Cassation Court issues its decision regarding an appeal he filed to challenge his verdict. El-Beheiry received Monday a reduced sentence of one year in prison.
The sentence was reduced from the original five-year sentence issued on 30 November, the court said. El-Beheiry, a scholar, was accused of contempt of Islam, for publicly challenging the opinions and interpretations of renowned Muslim scholars.
Having received a wave of condemnation by the state’s religious apparatuses, led by Al-Azhar, El-Beheiry’s show was cancelled. A lawyer representing Al-Azhar in its case against El-Beheiry previously told Daily News Egypt he had presented to court reports proving El-Beheiry “insulted” the Prophet the Mohamed and the Hadith (the sayings of the Prophet).
The Socialist Popular Alliance Party (SPAP) issued a statement Wednesday in solidarity with El-Beheiry, and condemning the verdict against him. “The prison sentence against El-Beheiry slams the freedom of thought, research and publication and detains the mind, while the declared narrative calls for reform in religious speech,” the party stated.
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) had also demanded the acquittal of El-Beheiry, and for all related charges against him to be dropped.
“In a democratic society, countering opinions should not occur through terrorising and courts, but through exchanging arguments, as long as they do not include hate speech,” the network said, adding that “insulting religion is a vague charge that violates the freedom of speech”.