'Insulting religion': Blasphemy sentence in Egypt sends a chill
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Saber was arrested in September, several days after protests erupted at the US embassy in Cairo and elsewhere in the Muslim world when an American-made film mocking the prophet Mohammed was publicized.
According to his lawyer and family, his mother called police when an angry mob gathered outside his home in a working-class area on the outskirts of Cairo and accused him of burning the Quran and insulting Islam. The crowd threatened to kill him and burn down his house, they said.
When the police arrived, they arrested Saber instead of protecting him from the mob. Police searched his home without a warrant, and found a video in which he criticizes organized religion. The prosecutor used this as evidence to charge him with insulting religion under a vague clause in Egypt's penal code that criminalizes the denigration of religion. Mr. Ezzat says the prosecutor incited other prisoners to beat Saber after he was imprisoned by telling his cellmates that Saber was connected to the anti-Islam film.
Mr. Gharbeia says the case should have been thrown out because the evidence against him was obtained without a warrant. But his lawyers also challenged the constitutionality of the law against blasphemy, arguing that it was so vague that citizens couldn't be expected to know when they were breaking the law. Right advocates also say the vague wording allows it to be abused, and it is often used against minorities and those with opinions contrary to the majority. They further say such clauses limit freedom of expression.
Blasphemy cases have been on the rise since the uprising that ousted former president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011. Rights advocates say the article in the draft constitution prohibiting insulting prophets will further limit freedom of expression and likely lead to more blasphemy cases and convictions.