April 30, 2012
A judge in Upper Egypt has upheld a six-year prison sentence for a Coptic Christian wrongly convicted of "blasphemy" against Islam and inciting sectarian strife, Compass Direct News reports. The judge in Assuit on April 5 refused to strike down the sentence delivered to Makarem Diab, 49, for charges stemming from an argument that Diab had in February with Abd Al Hameed, a fellow employee at Deer Al Gabrawy Prep School. According to Diab's lawyer, Ahmed Sayed Gebaly, the charges were inflated. "To be honest, [Diab] didn't do anything wrong," said Gebaly, a Muslim. On Feb. 29, in a 10-minute court hearing with no defense attorney present, a judge sentenced Diab to six years in prison for "insulting the prophet" and "provoking students." Diab received an appeal hearing on March 16, but Al Hameed instigated a massive riot by a large throng of Muslim attorneys outside the courthouse, who became so enraged they burst into the courtroom during the hearing and assaulted Diab's attorneys. The judge upheld the six-year sentence -- out of fear, Gebaly said -- but scheduled an appeal hearing. Diab remains in prison awaiting appeal.