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Author of popular novel faces legal action

ANHRI

(ANHRI/IFEX) - 2 May 2010 - The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) said that several Christian lawyers have joined the neo actio popularis team in Egypt by demanding a five-year prison sentence for Youssef Zeidan, author of the novel "Azazel". They claim that he defamed Christianity according to article 98 of the Egyptian penal code.

A group of lawyers and Coptic organizations abroad have issued a statement against Zeidan, whose novel ranked among the top Arabic literary works in recent years. They also filed a series of communiqués demanding that the prosecutor general try Zeidan for contempt of the Christian religion and verbal abuse of Copts.

According to ANHRI, the communiqué submitted against the author of "Azazel" is no surprise, in view of the attack launched by many radical Christians against the novel and its author since its publication and as a result of the success it has achieved. "The infuriating irony is that the complainants allegedly consider themselves human rights defenders while they are publicity seekers and pro seizing," says ANHRI. They previously called for a ban on the movie "I love cinema" and Zeidan has been accused of being a racist.

Gamal Eid, executive director of ANHRI, said, "We caution against religious and political Hesba cases. We are also on alert for people who say they are guardians of religion but who are driven by miscomprehension or are seeking publicity. Hesba cases are lethal to the Egyptian culture and freedom of expression. It is a shame that the Egyptian government takes a false impartial stance on these cases."

Eid added, "Pope Shenouda III must take a clear position from those fawning to him, claiming they have filed the communiqués as lawyers for the Egyptian church. We really wish that the church would rise above pursuing a creative writer due to allegations promoted by extremists who seek publicity at the expense of creativity and freedom of expression."

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