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ICC Note: Parliamentary efforts to repeal Egypt’s blasphemy law are facing opposition from the Ministry of Justice. Supporters of repealing the law have expressed concern that the law is too vague and gives too much discretion to judges who use the power for show trials. While the law protects the incitement through insult of Islam, Christianity and Judaism, the law is almost used against those who criticize Islam.

06/21/2016 Egypt (Morning Star News): Parliamentary efforts in Egypt to repeal the country’s equivalent of a “blasphemy law” are facing stiff opposition from the Ministry of Justice.

The ministry’s representative to parliament, Chancellor Ayman Rafah, this month told the People’s Assembly that the administration opposed efforts to eliminate the constitution’s Article 98F, which criminalizes any expression “for the purpose of inciting strife, ridiculing or insulting a heavenly religion or a sect following it, or damaging national unity.”

The three “heavenly religions” in Egypt are Islam, Judaism and Christianity, but the law is almost always used against those who criticize Islam. Conviction carries a sentence of six months to five years in prison and a fine of 500 to 1,000 Egyptian pounds (US$55 to US$110).

Rafah told the People’s Assembly on June 12 that dropping Article 98F would violate a constitutional prohibition against inciting hatred against people of a revealed religion, a crime “punished by the law.” The Egyptian government considers irreverent speech a form of incitement.

Rafah also said that limits needed to be placed on some sorts of expression. A spokesman for the ministry later told media that repealing the article would be “unreasonable.”

Members of Parliament Nadia Henry, Mohamed Zakareya Mohi El-Din and Mona Mounir earlier submitted a draft law to remove Article 98F from the constitution. The three MPs and their supporters said the statute is vague, contrary to the constitution and gives too much discretion to judges, who issue draconian punishments against Christians in what amount to show trials.

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