Hitting “like” on Facebook has landed a Christian man in Egypt in jail for six years.
Kerolos Shawky was sentenced Tuesday to six years in prison and fined the equivalent of $840 on charges of blasphemy and contempt of Islam for simply "liking" the Facebook page 'Knights of the Cross', according to International Christian Concern (ICC).
Rafla Zekry Rafla, a lawyer representing Kerolos, said it was not Shawky's intention to insult Islam. Rafla says Shawky didn't have much experience with the Internet and also suffers from poor eyesight. He never had any intention of committing contempt, or even blasphemy.
Kerolos was convicted by the Egyptian court of violating Article 98(f) of the Egyptian Penal Code, which prohibits "ridiculing, or insulting heavenly religions or inciting sectarian strife." Ironically, it was the public accusations against Kerolos which actually incited local violence as Christian shops and homes were vandalized and set afire.
His defense team plans to appeal and hopes the conviction will be reviewed before the end of this month, one of his lawyers told ICC.
Kerolos' case and the attacks on Christian-owned property demonstrate the high level of sectarian tensions that continue to be present, said Jay Roddy, researcher with the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.
"Shortly before the man's trial was set to take place, Christian-owned property in the same village was set ablaze in what appears to be a related attack," Roddy told ICC.
This is now the third conviction of a Christian on what should be insignificant charges.
Todd Daniels, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, "The Egyptian legal system appears to have no concern for upholding the rule of law or protecting the fundamental rights of Egyptian citizens. From frivolous convictions on accusations of blasphemy like those brought against Kerolos and Demyana or the conviction of Bishoy, to the cases involving journalists, political dissidents and protestors, fundamental human rights are being trampled. Egypt must quickly abandon the use of sham trials that violate the most basic rights of all citizens, including its Christian minority. The United States should use its role as a key ally and a significant donor of funds to Egypt to ensure that the country is moving to protect the fundamental rights of its citizens."
Publication date: June 27, 2014