Coptic Christian's prison sentence upheld

A three year sentence has been upheld in an appeals court in Egypt. 

Abd Adel Bebawy was arrested in his home village of Minbal on July 6 after posting an image of God, the angel Gabriel and a verse from the Quaran on Facebook. 

The day after his arrest, according to International Christian Concern, a mob of Islamic hardliners gathered in Minbal and attacked the homes of several Christians

The village has made it clear since then that Bebawy and his family are no longer welcome.

When the court originally passed a prison sentence on Bebawy on 27th November, his legal defence team believed that they would succeed in the appeal. His defence lawyers argued that no material evidence was presented against Abd. They further argued that Abd had reported his Facebook account as hacked in July and the Facebook post in question was immediately deleted. 

One lawyer who advised on the case said: "We were thinking that the appeal will end up setting Abd free, and we were thinking who will compensate Abd for the months detained in prison until we reached the appeal time. Who will compensate his family, who have left the village and his kids moved to another school?”

The number of blasphemy cases in Egypt has increased since 2016. Many of these cases involve on social media and can carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison. 

Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager for the Middle East, said: “The verdict of the appeal court is extremely disappointing and worrying, as it further ingrains violations of religious freedom into the strata of Egypt’s legal system.

"This unjust sentence affects not only Bebawy, but also his family who is now left without a breadwinner. The Christians in his village now live with the knowledge that any of their Muslim neighbours can accuse them of blasphemy, which can lead to their imprisonment with no evidence presented. If Egypt is truly serious about religious freedom, then the authorities must take active steps to protect the rights of Christians.” 

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