Egyptian TV presenter Islam El-Beheiry has criticised a five-year jail sentence issued against him on Saturday on charges of "blasphemy" linked to a controversial show he used to present about Islam.
The charges of blasphemy were “strange” as he had tackled “heritage, not religion” in his show With Islam, he said in a phone interview with private TV channel CBC on Monday.
The programme, previously broadcast on private TV channel Al-Qahera Wal-Nas, did not insult religion, but rather “defended” it, he claimed.
Now off air, El-Beheiry's show tackled several controversial topics, such as punishment for apostasy, early marriage, and different interpretations of the Hadith, the sayings and teachings of Islam's Prophet Muhammed.
Up to 48 complaints have been filed against him, El-Beheiry told CBC.
In one case filed by lawyer Mohamed Abdel Salam, an Egyptian misdemeanors court sentenced the TV presenter to five years in jail on Saturday, but the ruling could be appealed in front of the Cairo Court of Appeal.
In early April, Al-Azhar, the country's leading Sunni Islam institute, filed another complaint against El-Beheiry’s show with the Free Media Zone, the state department in charge of managing cable TV channel contracts.