ICC Note: An appeals hearing on December 28 cleared Egyptian convert Bishoy Armia Boulous, also known as Mohammed Hegazy, of two of three charges, but sentenced him to one year in prison on the third and unknown charge and he continues to be held for investigation of charges of blasphemy.
01/01/2015 Egypt (Christian Daily) A noted convert in Egypt who was sentenced to five years in prison for documenting attacks on Christians has won a partial victory on appeal, but he remains in jail because of prior blasphemy charges.
An appeals judge on Sunday (Dec. 28) found Bishoy Armia Boulous, 31, previously known as Mohammed Hegazy, not guilty on a charge of spreading information meant to “cause harm or damage to the public interest” and not guilty on the closely related charge of spreading false news “bound to weaken” Egypt’s “prestige” or harm the “country’s national interests.”
Boulous, however, was found guilty of an unidentified charge, likely that of inciting sectarian strife, and sentenced to one year in prison. The appeals judge did not identify the specific article of Egypt’s Criminal Code that Boulous was found guilty of violating, but according to the law he will do so in the official sentencing documents set to be issued in two weeks.
Because Boulous spent more that a year in prison waiting for his trial to take place and his appeal to be heard, he should have been released at the conclusion of Sunday’s hearing, but instead he was held without an opportunity to post bail because ofblasphemy charges filed against him five years ago by two Islamist lawyers.
Attorneys believe the state, in effect, has taken an active role in punishing Boulous for his conversion by holding him on charges past their statutory limit, and doing so without any possibility of bail.
Karam Ghobriel, one of Boulous’s attorneys, said there is “no hope” the Interior Ministry will release Boulous any time soon.
“There is no hope at all, because he is still in jail for the investigation of his blasphemy case, which on Jan. 22 will have been going on for six months, but they will find other reasons to keep him in jail for sure,” Ghobriel said. “After Jan. 22, we will know when this case is going to go to court.”
Ghobriel filed a complaint about the denial of bail for Boulous in the blasphemy case. By comparison, the incendiary Muslim cleric Abo Islam, who was charged with blasphemy for ripping up and burning a Bible during a 2012 protest in front of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, was allowed to remain free during his trial and appeal. Islam was eventually sentenced to five years in prison. He is the only Muslim in Egypt to be convicted of blaspheming Christianity.