Thursday, December 13, 2012

Egypt: ‘Outrageous’ guilty verdict in blasphemy case an assault on free expression

Amnesty International

12 December 2012

"An Egyptian activist has been sentenced to three years in prison after being found guilty of “defamation of religion”, a conviction Amnesty International called an outrageous assault on freedom of expression.

The court in Cairo found Alber Saber Ayad, a 27-year-old computer science graduate and activist, guilty of disseminating material on the internet that defamed religions.

He is expected to be released on a bail of EG£1,000 (US$160) on Thursday 13 December pending his appeal. Amnesty International considered him to be a prisoner of conscience detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression, and had called for his immediate and unconditional release.

This is an outrageous verdict and sentence for a person whose only ‘crime’ was to post his opinions online,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

“This conviction will ruin his life, whether he serves the sentence or not. The court should have thrown the case out on the first day, yet now he’s been branded as having insulted religion.”

Alber Saber Ayad was arrested at his home in Cairo on 13 September 2012, after angry groups of men surrounded his house and called for his death, accusing him of heresy and atheism and of promoting Innocence of Muslims – a short film regarded by many to be offensive.

Police waited until the next day to respond to a call from Alber Saber Ayad’s mother. When they eventually arrived they arrested Alber Saber Ayad, confiscating his personal computer and CDs.

The activist’s lawyer told Amnesty International that his client’s trial was marred by the judge’s refusal to allow the defence to call key witnesses – including the arresting and investigating officers, and the individuals who first filed the complaints against Alber Saber Ayad.

While he was held at Cairo’s El Marg Police Station, a police officer reportedly incited other detainees to attack him....."

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