23 October 2011
Egyptian jailed over 'insulting' Facebook posts
A Cairo court found that Ayman Yusef Mansur "intentionally insulted the dignity of the Islamic religion and attacked it with insults and ridicule online".
The court said his insults were "aimed at the Noble Koran, the true Islamic religion, the Prophet of Islam and his family and Muslims, in a scurrilous manner," the agency reported.
He was arrested in August after police tracked him down through his internet address.
Egyptian law bans insults to religion. The law has been used in the past to try Shiite Muslims.
MENA did not mention Mansur's religion or beliefs, but quoted the court as saying that "all members of religions are obligated to tolerate the others' existence".
This is the not the first time an Egyptian has been jailed for insulting Islam over the internet.
In 2007, a court sentenced blogger Kareem Amer to jail for insulting the Muslim prophet and then-president Hosni Mubarak.
He was released last year.
Egypt, the most populous Arab country, follows the French legal system but its constitution, suspended since the military took over after an uprising ousted Mr Mubarak in February, stipulates that Islam is the main source of law.
The country is also home to the Middle East's largest Christian population, roughly 10 percent of its 80 million population.
Mansur's conviction comes at a time of mounting fears that Islamists will sweep the country's first parliamentary elections after Mr Mubarak's ouster, scheduled to begin on November 28.
The Islamists want to ensure that a panel that drafts a new constitution will not remove a previous article stating that Islam is the main source of legislation, a sensitive topic that few secular politicians will openly challenge.
"This is very serious," said Heba Morayef, a Cairo-based researcher for Human Rights Watch.
The law used to convict Mansur "is a very vague provision, and it has long been the recommendation of human rights groups to remove that provision," she said.
"To sentence someone on the basis of so broad a provision will have a chilling effect in political debate, because there has been so much debate about the role of religion in the state."
A civilian court convicted Mansur, but the sentencing came as the military, in power since Mr Mubarak's ouster, faced growing criticism for alleged restrictions on the press and prosecution of bloggers.
"This comes as yet another violation of freedom of expression," Ms Morayef said.
Meanwhile, Egyptian officials have pushed back the closing date for parties to register in a parliamentary election for the second time.
It comes after some politicians asked for more time to complete their applications.
Candidates must apply, prove they have never committed a crime and pay a fee.
Observers say the first multi-candidate vote, since Mr Mubarak was toppled after 30 years in power, is a crucial test of the ruling military's commitment to end decades of autocratic rule.
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