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Coptic Egyptian lawyer accused of defaming Islam sentenced to prison

The undersigned organizations condemn the verdict issued against Coptic lawyer Romani Murad Saad by the Bandar Assiut II court of Misdemeanor, sentencing him to one year in prison and a 500 EGP (US$71.58) fine in absentia. Saad was also ordered to pay a sum of 10 thousand EGP (US$1432) as a temporary civil compensation to the claimants who accused him of deliberately insulting Islam.

The case began towards the end of May 2012 during a heated facebook discussion between Romani Murad Saad and a number of Islamist lawyers on a page entitled “Union of Assiut young lawyers” over the second phase of the recent presidential elections. Romani expressed his dissatisfaction with the results of the first round of the elections resulting in a re-run between candidates Mohamed Morsi and Ahmed Shafik and his wish to boycott the second round of elections, upon which he was subject to fierce opposition and accused of being a supporter of Mubarak and a sell-out.

Following the discussion, some of the lawyers filed a complaint against him at the beginning of July of the same year accusing him of insulting Islam during a discussion between them inside the library of the Assiut branch of the Bar Association.

The prosecution listened to the two complaining lawyers, then requested more information through the launching of a criminal investigation into the matter.

The results of the investigation did not confirm the truth of the allegations prompting the prosecution to order a second investigation by the directorate of criminal research which equally concluded to have found no evidence in favour of the allegations.

The undersigned organizations express their utter rejection of such cases which target freedom of opinion and expression. They also denounce the ease with which investigative bodies condemn citizens of such accusations bringing them to trial in absence of real evidence therefore encouraging similar complainants to seek to silence differing voices.

The organizations also express their serious concern regarding the increase in the number of cases of defamation of religion against Copts, which strongly indicate that such cases have become a weapon for religious discrimination, oppression of religious minorities and oppression of one's right to express one's own beliefs.

Finally, the undersigned organizations hold Egyptian authorities responsible for such violations by ignoring demands by human rights organizations regarding the amendment of legislative provisions regulating such crimes as stated in articles 98, 160 and 161 of the penal code, all of which are directly related to the violation of freedom of expression of belief and the continued use of which results in those vague and ungrounded accusations, paid for by years in prison.

Arabic Network for Human Rights Information

Other Signatories

Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
El Nadeem Centre for psychological rehabilitation of victims of violence
Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
Hisham Mubarak Law Center
Nazra for Feminist Studies
The Egyptian Foundation for the Advancement of Childhood Conditions
The Human Rights Legal Assistance Group
Centre for Egyptian Women Legal Assistance
The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights
Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies
Appropriate Communications Techniques for Development
The New Woman Foundation
Habi Center for Environmental Rights
Support for Information Technology Center

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