HRW urges Egypt to release Christian teens jailed on blasphemy charges

Published March 14th, 2016 - 11:53 GMT
Is mocking Daesh mocking Islam? Should it be punishable as blasphemy? (Shutterstock)
Is mocking Daesh mocking Islam? Should it be punishable as blasphemy? (Shutterstock)

Human Rights Watch called on Egypt on Sunday to revoke the jail sentences of four Coptic Christian teenagers who were found guilty of blasphemy last month.

On 25 February, Upper Egypt’s Juvenile Misdemeanor Court in Minya sentenced in absentia Mueller Atef, Albert Ashraf, and Bassem Amgad to five years in jail, and Clinton Magdy to juvenile custody for five years.

Muslim residents in the boys’ village filed a legal complaint accusing the teens of insulting Islam by shooting a video mocking members of Daesh carrying out a beheading after finishing Islamic prayers.

“These children shouldn’t face prison for expressing themselves, even with an immature joke,” a HRW statement quoted deputy Middle East director Nadim Houry as saying.

HRW also called for the annulment of the law used to prosecute blasphemy.

“The continued prosecution of blasphemy cases in Egypt goes against the government’s claim to be promoting a more inclusive vision of religion,” Houry added.

On 30 January 2016, the boys’ teacher, Gad Youssef Younan, was convicted of contempt of religion for shooting the clip, and sentenced to three years in jail.

The sentences can still be appealed.

Egyptian courts have recently convicted several individuals, both Muslim and Christian, of contempt of religion in various court cases involving citizen complaints against behaviour deemed sacrilegious.

© Copyright Al-Ahram Publishing House

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