Students charged with disparaging religion released on bail

A court in Sharqiya ordered the release of two students who were detained for four days on charges of blasphemy and disparaging Islam, a rights watchdog said Sunday.

Basmaa Rabiee, 18, was detained when she reported to the police that her mother threatened to kill her, said the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression in a statement. The statement said that Rabiee’s mother said she showed contempt of religion.

The organization added that when her friend, Hamdy Gamal, 22, went to the police station to make sure she was alright, her father accused him of imbuing his daughter with sacrilegious thoughts, and was consequently detained.

The statement demanded an immediate end to what it called “farce” trials for defamation of religion. It said that more and more people are victimized by such trials, only because their views are not deemed acceptable by the rest of the community.

Insulting Islam and the prophet is a criminal offense under Article 98(f) of the Penal Code. Human rights activists say the article poses a threat to freedom of expression.

The article states, “Confinement for a period of not less than six months and not exceeding five years … shall be the penalty inflicted on whoever makes use of religion in propagating, either by words, in writing, or in any other means, extreme ideas for the purpose of inciting strife, ridiculing or insulting a heavenly religion or a sect following it, or damaging national unity.”

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