A Christian man in Egypt was sentenced to six years in prison and charged a fine of 6,000 EGP for contempt of Islam. The ruling was handed down on June 24 to Kerolos Shawky though his lawyers seem hopeful that the conviction will be reviewed. After Shawky was accused of insulting and ridiculing Islam and inciting sectarian strife for liking a Facebook page, Muslim radicals attacked fellow Christians in Shawky’s neighborhood as well.
According to Shawky’s lawyer Rafla Zekry Rafla, the charges are extremely unjust.
“Kerolos didn't intend to insult the Islamic religion, only he made a like on the page of Knights of the Cross on Facebook. He doesn't have much experience in the internet plus he suffers from poor eyesight. So there was not any intention for the contempt or blasphemy of Islam,” he said.
Shawky’s case followed by attacks on Christian properties only highlights the high levels of sectarian tension in the region. Jay Roddy, a researcher at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy said, several Christian-owned homes and businesses were set ablaze shortly before Shawky’s trial took place. According to Roddy, the two incidents were related.
Egyptians had hopes that Abdel Fatah El Sisi’s coming into office would benefit Christians but Shawky’s case is the third conviction of a member of the same denomination without seemingly significant charges. On June 15 and 18, two others Demyana Abd al Nour and Bishoy Armia Boulous were sentenced to prison respectively on grounds of blasphemy.
“The Egyptian legal system appears to have no concern for upholding the rule of law or protecting the fundamental rights of Egyptian citizens. From frivolous convictions on accusations of blasphemy like those brought against Kerolos and Demyana or the conviction of Bishoy, to the cases involving journalists, political dissidents and protesters, fundamental human rights are being trampled. Egypt must quickly abandon the use of sham trials that violate the most basic rights of all citizens, including its Christian minority,” said Todd Daniels, International Christian Concern’s regional manager for the Middle East.
Photo Credit: Barnelbe