Egyptian Christian sentenced to five years in prison over contempt of Islam: NGO
A Cairo court sentenced a Coptic Christian citizen this week to five years in prison over blasphemy, among other related charges, according to a statement released by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) on Tuesday.
EIPR is a local prominent rights group that has been systematically targeted by Egyptian authorities.
Marco Gerges was found guilty of misusing religion in promoting extremist thoughts, contempt of Islamic religion, and violating family values, the statement added.
He was reportedly acquitted of the accusation of using a social media account for the sake of committing these crimes, though.
Gerges had been arrested in June 2021 for having improper images on his mobile phone that were considered to be offensive to Islam.
A source at EIPR confirmed to The New Arab, on the condition of anonymity, that “Gerges is merely a citizen who has no affiliation to any entity.”
“Neither is he a writer nor a researcher as local media reported,” they added, declining to comment further for fear of their safety.
State security prosecution subsequently interrogated Gerges over his relationships and other personal matters; and he was faced with charges of slandering Islam on social media, which he denied, according to EIPR.
“The verdict against Gerges is one of a series of prosecutions as well as persecutions of citizens within the context of restricting freedom of expression…resorting to unconstitutional and overbroad laws such as blasphemy or that of the violation of family and social values,” EIPR noted in its statement.
“Such [approaches] open the door for misusing these accusations in breaching freedom of expression and thought, belief and creativity,” the statement concluded.
Christians in Egypt represent the biggest minority rated about 10 percent of the total population of about 101 million.
Earlier in November last year, Islamic thinker and writer Ahmed Abdo Maher, also a high-profile lawyer, had been found guilty by another court of slandering Islam, stirring up sectarian strife, and posing a threat to national unity. But he will stand a re-trial next week.
Several other intellectuals, writers, public figures, and even ordinary citizens have stood trial or received verdicts since the blasphemy law was introduced in 1981.