An Egyptian man who was arrested from a café in November after making “anti-religious” posts on Facebook was sentenced to three years in prison and a fine of LE1000 for “contempt of religion” on Saturday In a statement, the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression said Karim al-Banna was arrested along with a number of other people who were also accused of using social media to propagate anti-religious sentiments.
Article 64 of the Egyptian Constitution states that “freedom of religion is
absolute.” While atheism is not technically illegal under Egyptian law,
“contempt of heavenly religions,” desecrating religious symbols and
mocking religious rites in public are illegal. Article 160 of the penal code states that the desecration of religious symbols is punishable by up to five years in prison and/or fines of up to LE500. Article 161 assigns the same penalties for mocking a religion or religious practices.Article 98(f) states that ridiculing the Abrahamic faiths and the propagation of atheism in words, writing, or other means, is punishable
by sentences of up to five years in prison and/or fines of up to LE1000.
There have been several other recent examples of atheists facing
prosecution in Egypt. Sherif Gaber, a 20-year-old university student,
was arrested in October 2013 for anti-religious posts he made on
In March 2014, police announced the forming of a task force to arrest a group of atheists in Alexandria over their comments on social media.
Activist Alber Saber was sentenced to three years in prison in January
2013 for insulting religion after posting a video promoting atheism on
his Facebook page.
In June 2014, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a statement
calling on Egypt to repeal its blasphemy laws, based on Article 19 of
the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (IICCPR),
upholding the rights to freedom of expression, which Egypt is party to.
According to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, Egypt’s
blasphemy laws are incompatible with Article 19.
Joe Stork, the deputy Middle East and North Africa director for HRW,
stated, “Although Egyptian authorities claim blasphemy laws maintain
social peace, they often have the opposite effect. Prosecuting people
for beliefs peacefully expressed validates, rather than combats,