A young Christian in Egypt has been sentenced to 6 years in prison for liking a Christian Facebook page. This verdict just comes shortly after the election of the new president, el-Sisi who ran on a campaign of more religious freedom for all in Egypt. With this guilty verdict, many watchdog groups are outraged and shocked with the severity of this punishment.
06/27/14 Egypt (Morning Star News) – A young Christian man in Upper Egypt accused of blaspheming Islam for “liking” a Facebook page was sentenced Tuesday (June 24) to six years in prison, shocking the Coptic community and other Facebook users.
Judge Hazim Hany of Armant Criminal Court found Kerolos Shouky Attallah, 29, of Al-Mahamid village near Luxor, guilty of violating two articles of the Egyptian Penal Code – Article 98F, defaming a divinely revealed religion, and Article 176, inciting sectarian violence.
Attallah was charged for “liking” an Arabic-language Facebook page administered by an anonymous group of Christian converts known as the Knights of the Cross. His attorney, Mohamed Ahmed Abd-Alaal, said Attallah did not make any comments on the site, share any of the postings or upload anything to it. Attallah promptly removed his name from the page once he realized the Facebook page offended some Muslims.
The guilty verdict and the severity of the sentence came as a surprise, said Safwat Samaan, chairman of Nation Without Borders, a human rights and development group headquartered in Luxor.
“The sentence today was a shock not just to Kerolos but to everyone who uses Facebook in Egypt,” Samaan said. “Any person who uses Facebook in Egypt and presses ‘Like’ on any page … can be put into prison for six years.”
Abd-Alaal told Morning Star News that the cause of Islamist anger in Al-Mahamid wasn’t a satirical cartoon about the Salafi movement but religious extremism and oversensitivity.
“Nobody could upset Christ or Muhammad by these comments; the accusation came out of nowhere,” said Abd-Alaal, a Sunni Muslim.
The Knights of the Cross Facebook page was designed to provide Arabic-speaking converts from Islam – many forced to live alone and in hiding – a cyber-place to encourage each other and safely discuss the Bible. Members also post essays about Christian apologetics and entries about perceived errors and conflicts in the Koran.
The number of years in prison Attallah received for each charge will be released within 30 days. An appeal is planned for next month.