Amnesty International on Tuesday expressed concern at an increase in prosecutions for blasphemy and insulting religion in Egypt.
The statement came hours after Demiana Abdel-Nour, a Coptic Christian teacher, was fined LE100,000 by a court in Upper Egypt for insulting Islam and the Prophet Muhammad during a lesson.
“Slapping criminal charges with steep fines and, in most cases, prison sentences against people for simply speaking their mind or holding different religious beliefs is simply outrageous,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director.
Luther went on to demand an end to such prosecutions, and the overturning of previous convictions.
Amnesty says the majority of those targeted by such accusations in Egypt are Coptic Christians.
Such charges can result in six years in prison and fines of up to LE500 ($70) under Article 98 of Egypt’s penal code.
On 1 June, Coptic Christian lawyer Romani Murad was sentenced to one year in prison and fined LE10,000 ($1,430) for allegedly insulting and mocking God and the Quran.
In September 2012, Albert Saber, a 25-year-old man from a Coptic family, was arrested for allegedly posting the controversial anti-Islam 'Innocence of Muslims' film on Facebook.
In July 2012, a Coptic Christian school teacher from Sohag, Bishoy Kamel, was sentenced to six years in prison for posting cartoons deemed defamatory to Islam and the Prophet Mohammed on Facebook, as well as for insulting President Mohamed Morsi and his family.
Another notable case was the referral of two Coptic children – ten-year-old Nabil Rizk and nine-year-old Mina Farag – to juvenile detention in October 2012 for allegedly tearing up a copy of the Quran. Because they were so young, however, they were later released pending further investigations.
In February 2013, the prosecutor-general ordered the arrest of controversial Islamic preacher Ahmed Abdullah Abu-Islam for allegedly insulting Christianity.