After posting a simple Facebook status announcing that he is an atheist, 21-year-old Karim al-Banna found himself charged with insulting Islam and was yesterday sentenced to three years in prison, reported AFP.
According to the defendant’s lawyer, the 21-year-old was sentenced to prison on Saturday in Beheira. The lawyer added that his own father testified against for “embracing extremist ideas against Islam.”
“He was handed down a three-year prison sentence, and if he pays a bail of 1,000 Egyptian pounds ($ 140 or 117 euros) the sentence can be suspended until a verdict is issued by an appeals court,” al-Banna’s lawyer told AFP.
In statements to AFP, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights’ Ishaq Ibrahim said al-Banna had initially been arrested in November 2014 when he went to a police station to complain that his name was published “in a list of known atheists in a local daily [paper].”
Instead of allowing him to file the complaint, al-Banna was accused of insulting Islam and arrested.
News of the imprisonment came just weeks after Egyptian writer Fatima Naoot was referred to trial for criticising Islam’s sacrificial rituals. Naoot, who published her views on a Facebook post, was charged with being “in contempt of Islam.”
While Egypt’s constitution criminalises insults of the three monolithic religions, courts have often taken great discretion in defining what ‘insults’ to religion are.
Egypt’s police authorities have recently launched a crackdown against atheism and have even shut down a cafe, accusing it of fostering ‘satanism’ and ‘atheism.’
In a recent poll conducted by Egypt’s Dar al-Ifta it was claimed there are 866 atheists in Egypt. The poll was mocked by social media users as a result of its dubious implementation.