The Bani Mazar Court will deliver the verdict in the trial of four Coptic Christian students charged with contempt of religion on 25 February.
In April of 2015, the four students filmed a play lampooning Islamic extremists after 20 Egyptian Copts were killed in Libya in February 2015. The play included a scene in which the actors performed an Islamic prayer.
The video was disseminated widely online, causing a minor agitation in the village of Bani Mazar. Following the uproar, the Coptic Church intervened and apologised on behalf of the students; nevertheless, the students were referred to the prosecution in May and were held on remand for 90 days.
A Coptic Christian teacher who filmed the video was sentence to three years in prison last week.
While Article 2 of the 2014 Egyptian Constitution, passed after the overthrow of former president Mohamed Morsi, states: “Islam is the religion of the State[…] the principles of Islamic Sharia are the main source of legislation,” Article 64 maintains that “freedom of religion is absolute.”
However, despite not being explicitly illegal by law, the government and judicial system has recently taken to upholding the role of religion in Egypt, issuing charges of contempt of religions, desecration of religious symbols ,and ridicule of religious rites in public. These offences can carry sentences of a maximum of five years in prison according to the penal code.
TV host Islam El-Behiry and writer Fatima Naoot are among those who have recently been charged with contempt of religion.
Engineering student Karim Al-Banna received a three-year prison sentence in 2015 for contempt of religion and insulting the divine.