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Implications for Religious Minorities
Implications for Rights and Freedoms

Demiana Abdel Nour Blasphemy Case

Court / Presiding Judge

First Review: Luxor Misdemeanour Court/Judge Mohamed El-Tamawy
Second Review: Luxor Misdemeanour Appeal Court/Judge Ahmed Abdel-Maksoud

Procedural History

On June 11, 2013, the court issued its verdict upon first review. On June 14, 2014, the court issued its verdict upon second review.

Verdict

Demiana Abdel Nour was originally sentenced to a fine of LE100,000. In the second review of the case, the judge replaced the fine with a six-month prison sentence.

Summary of Reasoning

This case dates back to the accusations of three students against Coptic teacher Demiana Abdel Nour for reportedly saying that Pope Shenouda III performed more miracles than the Prophet, and allegedly placing her hand on her stomach to convey nausea when mentioning the Prophet’s name. Abdel Nour was then accused and ultimately charged with insulting Islam (blasphemy).

Anecdotal Notes

Although Abdel Nour was cleared of all accusations by the school’s principal and up to 10 other student witnesses, she was still referred to trial. During trial, the court refused to admit at least some of Abdel Nour’s witnesses. Abdel Nour was ultimately released after her family paid an LE20,000 bail. EIPR condemned the sentence that was handed down to her, stating that she had merely “presented a comparison between religions in ancient, middle, and modern ages as mentioned in the curriculum.”

Legal & Judicial Implications

In addition to concerns about blasphemy sentences violating an individual's constitutionally and internationally-guaranteed rights to freedom of expresision and belief, nongovernmental organizations have also pointed to the disproportionate number of blasphemy prosecutions involving religious minorities, thus furthering discrimination. Additionally, the exhorbitant bail that was specifically set for Abdel Nour in this case raises concern that the courts are using bail not as a procedural tool, but rather as an inappropriately punitive one.