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Karim al-Banna Blasphemy Case

Court / Presiding Judge

First Review: Idku Misdemeanour Court
Second Review: Idku Misdemeanour Appeal Court

Procedural History

On January 10, 2015, the court issued its verdict. On March 9, 2015, the court upheld the verdict upon second review.

Verdict

Karim al-Banna was sentenced to three years in prison; this verdict was later affirmed by the court upon second review.

Summary of Reasoning

This case dates back to Karim al-Banna’s arrest in November 2014 with a group of others at a coffee shop that was allegedly known as the “atheists cafe.” He was ultimately sentenced to three years in prison for allegedly announcing his atheism on Facebook and reportedly defaming Islam. During the appeal, he was released on LE1,000 bail, and in March, his sentence was upheld.

Anecdotal Notes

When Karim al-Banna announced his atheism online, his photo and those of other self-declared atheists were published by a local newspaper, leading local residents to physically assault them. Since his release on bail, Karim al-Banna has been in hiding from the authorities.

Legal & Judicial Implications

Banna’s sentence occurred on the heels of a state crackdown on atheists, thus bringing about concerns regarding the politicized nature of the trial. Further, the text of the blasphemy provisions of Egypt’s Penal Code under which Banna was sentenced restrict the constitutionally and internationally guaranteed rights of an individual to freedom of belief and expression.