ICC Note: A teacher and four students are being held in Egypt and face blasphemy charges for a video in which the students mocked the jihadist group ISIS. As Egypt tries to address the issues of extremism, Christians have faced a rash of persecution including mob violence and government prosecution on charges of blasphemy. These actions raise serious questions about whether calls for reform from President Sisi are having an effect in the culture at large, and even within the government itself.
By Steven Edwards
05/08/2015 Egypt (Fox News) Four Egyptian kids who dared make fun of ISIS in a harmless video are headed for trial along with their teacher on charges of “insulting Islam,” after their Muslim neighbors got hold of the footage and went to police.
Aged between 15 and 16, the youths could face up to five years in a youth detention center – while the teacher would serve any sentence he receives in prison – if the court finds them guilty of violating Egypt’s blasphemy law, Egypt-focused activists say.
Egyptian Christian and civil rights groups are leading calls for their release, but the five – members of the Coptic community that descends from the non-Arab people whose Pharaohs ruled ancient Egypt – have already spent weeks in police holding cells.
“They are some kids who decided to have fun in a private place,” Mina Thabet, a Coptic activist and researcher at the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, told FoxNews.com from Cairo.
“They were on a trip with their teacher, but somehow rumor got out that they’d thrown down the Koran, and had insulted Islam, so that led to their arrests.”
The court proceedings are taking place in Beni Mazar, a city in Minya Governorate some 140 miles south of Cairo.
The teacher, Gad Younan, 42, had been escorting the four boys – and a fifth Coptic youth seen in the video – on a faith-based excursion outside their home village of Al-Nasriyah in Minya Governorate.
A judge this week denied the jailed boys leave to take end-of-year school exams as he remanded them and Younan into custody for a further two weeks pending continued investigation, according to a local monitor with Washington-based International Christian Concern (ICC), which is also following the case.
“It’s fair to say that these boys are headed for trial based on how we’ve seen similar cases play out in the past,” Todd Daniels, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, told FoxNews.com.
“There is over $1 billion in aid every year that goes to Egypt, and these dollars must remain linked to progress that is made on Egypt’s human rights record,” said Daniels.
“Egypt has a crucial role to play in countering violent extremism in the Middle East, but blasphemy cases on frivolous charges like this only increase the grip of extremists.”