Rights watchdog: three blasphemy cases being handled in one week

An Egyptian-based human rights organisation warned Thursday of a continuous deterioration of the status of freedom of belief in the country, urging the government to cease legal and security actions against people of different faiths.

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights said in a stament on Wednesday that there are currently three citizens standing trial for charges of insulting Islam.

Tema Misdemeanor Court in Sohag started trial sessions on Tuesday for Mostafa Hassan Ahmed, a teacher at al-Tahrir Elementary School after he was referred to court in May over charges of blasphemy. The case has been adjourned to June 25. 

Also on Tuesday, the Luxor Misdemeanor Court resumed the trial of Dimyana Ebeid Abdel Nour, a teacher at Sheikh Sultan Elementary school who faces the same charges. The court set June 11 for its verdict on the case. 

On Saturday, the Assiut Misdemeanor Court sentenced Coptic lawyer Romany Mourad Saad to one year in absentia, also for blasphemy. “The last few months have seen an a rise in hostility towards freedom of belief and religion, leading to a remarkable increase in the number of malicious complaints filed by citizens against each other”, said Adel Ramadan, EIPR’s legal official. 

According to Ramadan, the high responsiveness of prosecutors towards such complaints is a matter of concern. He believes the government should explicitly announce its stance on freedom of religion and thought. 

The organisation explained that defendants in all trials held outside Cairo over such charges were all convicted and received varying sentences. It added that protesters besieged courts in some cases and chanted slogans against the defendants. Some demonstrators even assaulted defense lawyers with no reaction by security or the court, it said.

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