02/26/2016, 17.22
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Minya: young Christians jailed for “contempt of Islam

For the Catholic Church spokesman, many judges in Minya province are Salafist. What happened there would not have happened in Cairo. For the teenagers’ attorney and human rights groups, the kids simply mocked the acts of violence of the Islamic State. Police has too much power.

Cairo (AsiaNews) – A court in Minya province sentenced three teenaged Copts to five years in prison for contempt of Islam after they were seen in a video mocking Muslim prayers. A judge sent a fourth defendant, aged 15, to a juvenile detention centre for an indefinite period.

The harsh sentence raises once more the issue of human rights in Egypt in President Abdelfattah al-Sisi’s Egypt.

Defence lawyer Maher Naguib said the four had not intended to insult Islam in the video, but merely to mock the beheadings carried out by jihadists of the Islamic State group.

In the video, one teenager can be seen kneeling on the ground and reciting Muslim prayers whilst others stand behind him, laughing. Later one of them is seen making a sign with his thumb to indicate the beheading of the one who is kneeling.

The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, an independent rights group, said ahead of Thursday's judgment that it watched the video and found that the four teenagers were performing scenes "imitating slaughter carried out by terrorist groups".

The video was filmed on a mobile phone in January 2015 when the three teenagers who were sentenced to five years were aged between 15 and 17.

Another rights group, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, said that between 2011 and 2013, 42 defendants were tried in similar cases and 27 of them were convicted.

Speaking to AsiaNews about the harsh sentence, the spokesman for the Catholic Church in Egypt, Fr Rafic Greiche, said that "everything depends on the judges.”

“Already at the time of Hosni Mubarak and even more so under Mohammed Morsi, judges, then and now, are inspired by Salafism, traditional and conservative Islam.”

“The place where the incident happened, Minya province, is known for its ethnic and religious tensions. If the incident had occurred in Cairo, the boys would still be free and no one would have condemned them.”

“We must keep in mind that in recent years many Muslim scholars who proposed a modern exegesis of Islam have also been accused of the same offence."

For Fr Rafic, security under al-Sisi has improved. However, "the police has greater powers to face the challenges of terrorism, and often behaves as if it were above the law. This also applies to the case of the torture and killing of Giulio Regeni, the young Italian researcher.”

“Just two days ago, the president, inaugurating the project of the second Suez Canal, pointed the finger at the police whose modus operandi is a stain on Egypt's reputation within the international community."

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