Document - Egypt: Further information: Religion critic sentenced and released on bail: Alber Saber Ayad

URGENT ACTION

Further information on UA: 278/12 Index: MDE 12/002/2013 Egypt Date: 9 January 2013

URGENT ACTION

RELIGION CRITIC SENTENCED AND RELEASED ON BAIl

Egyptian Alber Saber Ayad was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for “defaming religion” on 12 December 2012. However, he was freed on 17 December pending an appeal against his conviction after paying bail of EG£1,000 (US$160).

Prisoner of conscience, Alber Saber Ayad, had been detained since 13 September 2012 after groups of angry men surrounded his family home and accused him of heresy and atheism. He was tried on the basis of Internet posts which criticized religions such as Islam and Christianity, as well as videos later found at his home by the security forces.

The judge hearing the case reportedly found that Alber Saber Ayad had mocked religion, and in so doing apparently caused tension between Muslims and Christians.

He was convicted under Article 98(f) of the Penal Code, which criminalizes the propagation of “extremist ideas with a view stir up sedition [and], disparaging or holding in contempt heavenly religions” to damage “national unity or social peace”; Article 102, which criminalizes stirring up “sedition,” and articles 160(1)-161(1), which prohibit distorting religious observance.

His appeal will begin on 26 January 2013 before the El Marg Misdemeanours Appeals Court.

No further action is requested at this time. Many thanks to all those who sent appeals.

URGENT ACTION

RELIGION CRITIC SENTENCED and released on BAIl

ADditional Information

Alber Saber Ayad was arrested at his home in Cairo on 13 September 2012; a day after groups of angry men surrounded his home and tried to break into his house. They called for his death, accusing him of heresy and atheism and of promoting Innocence of Muslims a short film regarded by many as offensive. His mother called the police for protection but when they eventually arrived the next day they arrested Alber Saber Ayad and confiscated his personal computer and CDs. His mother has subsequently left her home for fear of further altercations with the men. Alber Saber Ayad told his lawyers that, while in detention, a police officer in El Marg Police Station incited other detainees to attack him. The trial has been marred by the judge’s refusal to allow the defence to call key witnesses, including the arresting and investigating offices, and the individuals who complained about Alber Saber Ayad.

The charges against Alber Saber Ayad are reminiscent of practices under Hosni Mubarak to limit freedom of expression. Karim Amer, a blogger, was sentenced to four years in prison in 2007 for criticizing Hosni Mubarak and Egypt’s Al-Azhar religious authorities in his blog. In November 2008, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) declared Karim Amer’s detention to be “arbitrary” on the grounds that it violated freedoms guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Film clips purportedly made by a US-based anti-Islam propagandist were translated into Arabic and posted on the Internet under the title Innocence of Muslims. They depict the prophet Muhammad and other figures revered by Muslims in an insulting manner. The clips have been cited as the reason for a series of protests in several predominantly Muslim countries in front of embassies and other places associated with the USA and other Western states. Some of these protests have been violent and have resulted in deaths and injuries to protesters and members of the security forces. An Egyptian court sentenced eight people, seven Coptic Christians and one US Christian pastor, to death in their absence for allegedly producing or promoting the film on 28 November 2012.

Amnesty International has also received reports of other cases of individuals being accused and convicted of blasphemy. These include the case of a Shi’a man reportedly charged with desecrating a mosque, two Muslim men reportedly charged with defaming Christianity for burning the Bible, and a Christian man reportedly sentenced to six years in prison for posting pictures deemed offensive to Islam on the Internet.

International human rights law protects expression of ideas that are offensive. Criticism of religions and other beliefs and ideas is a vital component of the right to freedom of expression. Laws – such as blasphemy laws – that criminalize criticism of (or insult to) religious beliefs violate freedom of expression. Such criticism, insult or mockery does not interfere with the individual believer’s freedom of religion, however offensive they may find it.

Name: Alber Saber Ayad

Gender m/f: m

Further information on UA: 278/12 Index: MDE 12/002/2013 Issue Date: 9 January 2013

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