Egyptian court upholds five-year blasphemy sentence against TV preacher
An Egyptian appeals court on Saturday upheld a five-year prison sentence against Islamic scholar and TV preacher Islam el-Behery, on charges of "contempt of religion", local media has reported.
Behery received the initial sentence in May after lawyer Mohamed Abdel Salam filed a lawsuit against him based on the controversial issues discussed in his TV show With Islam, such as punishments for apostasy and the different interpretations of Islam.
In April, al-Azhar University - Egypt's highest Islamic authority - filed a complaint with the General Authority for Investments and Free Zones, under which al-Qahera Wal Nas channel, which airs Behery's show, operates.
The complaint requested that the channel stop airing the show.
Suspending or revoking media licences fall within the jurisdiction of the authority, while cancelling a program or shutting down a channel is in the hands of NileSat, according to the memo of the State Lawsuit Authority, a court at the State Council.
|Behery had been presenting his understanding of Islam, stirring debate for questioning the credibility of the sources of Prophet Muhammed's Hadith
Al-Azhar's statement, which followed the complaint, justified its objection to Behery's show by saying that it promoted "heretical thoughts" that "violate the foundations and legacy of Islam" and "give rise to discord".
Behery's show was suspended shortly after al-Azhar filed its complaint.
"I am currently unable to explain the amount of trouble and nonsense I have been going through," Behery wrote on Facebook following the channel's decision to suspend his show, "but we have moved far backwards."
"What is coming is much worse, beyond imagination."
In his controversial show, Behery had been presenting his understanding of Islam, stirring debate for questioning the credibility of the sources of Prophet Muhammed's Hadith ["sayings"], a prime reference for Islamic teachings after the Quran.
Behery's sentence can be appealed again in another appeals court, after which a final resort would be the Court of Cassation.
According to article 98F of the Egyptian Penal Code, anyone who uses religion to promote extreme ideas - whether in writing or by any other means - for the purpose of inciting strife, "insulting a heavenly religion", or damaging national unity will be sentenced to no fewer than six months and up to five years in prison.
Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has assigned al-Azhar to fight what he has deemed to be faulty Islamic teachings and extremism.
The task comes as part of Egypt's nation-wide crackdown on Islamists following the ousting of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.