A Coptic Christian schoolteacher, Bishoy Kamel, has been sentenced to six years in prison for posting cartoons on Facebook deemed defamatory to Islam and the Prophet Mohamed, and for insulting President Mohamed Morsi and his family.
The Sohag Misdemeanour Court imposed the following sentences on Kamel: three years for defaming Islam and the Prophet Mohamed, two years for insulting the president, and one year for insulting Mohamed Safwat who made the allegations against him.
The prosecution said Kamel had used Facebook to deliberately defame the Prophet Mohamed. He had also insulted the president and shown contempt for society’s sacred symbols, the prosecution said.
Members of Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya and various Salafist groups attempted to attack Kamel when he was led out of the court after receiving his sentence. They pelted with rocks the police car used to transport him away from the court.
Kamel's lawyer has filed an appeal which will take place on 27 September at a different court.
The defendant said he did not post the cartoons, claiming his Facebook account had been hacked two days before. He was arrested on 30 July.
In June 2011, Naguib Sawiris, a Coptic billionaire and founder of the liberal Free Egyptians Party, was severely criticised after posting a cartoon of Disney characters Mickey and Minnie Mouse dressed in Islamic garb. Several Islamist lawyers subsequently lodged a complaint with Egypt's attorney-general against Sawiris, whom they accused of offending Islam.
"It is really scary that someone could be sentenced to two years in jail for writing comments about the president on social media, no matter how offensive these comments were," Emad Mubarak, a lawyer who represents human rights activists, said.
Mubarak added that Kamel's case reminded him of the Kareem Amer case that stirred much criticism during the last years of the Mubarak era.
Amer was sentenced in February 2007 to three years imprisonment for insulting Islam and one year for insulting President Hosni Mubarak. He was the first person in Egypt to be jailed due to a blog post. The case raised fears of a crackdown on bloggers.
On Thursday, Albert Saber, a 25-year-old activist, was arrested for insulting religion after allegedly posting on his Facebook page the controversial anti-Islam film that has sparked angry protests across the Muslim word in recent days.
Protests against the film in Cairo left two dead and 250 injured.