Daily News Egypt

Egyptian court sentences man to 3 years in prison following declaration of atheism - Daily News Egypt

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Egyptian court sentences man to 3 years in prison following declaration of atheism

Father of defendant supports court case against son for insulting religion

An Egyptian court handed out a three year prison sentence to a man accused of contempt of Islam and insulting the divine, on Saturday.

Karim Ashraf Mohammed Al-Banna was tried by a court in the industrial town of Idku, in the Delta governorate of Beheira.

The Idku District Misdemeanor Court allowed Al-Banna a bail of EGP 1,000 to suspend the prison time.

He is accused of using his Facebook account to publish articles that “belittle the divine”, according to the rights group Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE).

Ishaq Ibrahim, a researcher on freedom of religion and belief at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), told Daily News Egypt that Al-Banna declared his atheism on Facebook and subsequently was harassed in public. Upon seeking to file a report of the assault at a police department in Idku, Al-Banna was arrested.

He has been held in custody since the date of his arrest in November.

Ishaq Ibrahim also reported that the case against Al-Banna was supported by his father, who identified “suspect” books in possession of his son to support the case.

Despite not being explicitly illegal by law, the Egyptian government and judicial system has recently been confronting the role of theism in the country by using charges of contempt of religion.

In August, the ministries of Religious Endowment and Culture signed a joint protocol to confront the two “extremisms”; both religious extremism and atheism, and to “spread true Islam”.

In the light of recent cases against atheists and alleged homosexuals, many have commented that the environment in some regards is more Islamist now than under president Morsi, as the government tries to lay claim to religious authority.

Article 2 of the current Egyptian constitution, passed after the overthrow of Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated president Mohammed Morsi, states: “Islam is the religion of the State… the principles of Islamic Sharia are the main source of legislation.”

Dar al-Ifta, the branch of the government that issues religious edicts (fatwas), claimed in December that there are precisely 866 atheists in Egypt, or around 0.001 percent of the population; a statement that was internationally ridiculed.

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