Court / Presiding Judge
Gamaliya Misdemeanour Court/Judge Talal Radwan
On February 26, 2014, the Gamaliya Misdemeanour Court issued its verdict.
The court sentenced Amr Abdullah to five years in prison.
Summary of Reasoning
This case dates back to November 14, 2013, when police arrested Amr Abdullah as he entered the Hussein Mosque on Ashura. Abdullah, who is a Shia Muslim, was reportedly detained for allegedly insulting the companions of the Prophet. He was sentenced for blasphemy and defamation charges.
Egyptian authorities tend to shut the Hussein Mosque in anticipation of Ashura and in an effort to prevent Shia worshippers from pursuing any rituals there. Article 98 of the Penal Code criminalizes the defamation of religion (blasphemy) with a sentence of up to a five years and a fine of LE1,000.
Legal & Judicial Implications
Abdullah’s sentence, which is the maximum punishment under the blasphemy and defamation provisions, comes in the context of Egyptian authorities’ attempt to take measures against the Shia community. The acts of authorities to close the Hussein Mosque and restrict the rights of Shia citizens to practice raises serious questions on Egypt’s commitment to respecting the rights of an individual to freedom of belief of the Shia community. Further, the categorization of Shia practice as a form of defamation is an official attempt by the country to detract credibility from Shia beliefs, as well as an attempt to maintain control over a single interpretation of Islam.