Egyptian sheikh to face charges of denigrating Christianity

Ahram Online, Tuesday 25 Sep 2012

Islamist Sheikh Abu Islam Ahmed Abdullah is referred to criminal court to face charges of disparaging Christianity following Bible-burning incident outside US embassy

Egyptian sheikh

Egyptian prosecutors have referred prominent Islamist Sheikh Abu Islam Ahmed Abdullah, owner of the Umma and Mariya television channels, to criminal court to face charges of defaming the Christian faith.

The referral comes after two lawyers filed legal complaints accusing Abdullah of showing contempt for Christianity by burning copies of the New Testament in front of the US embassy in Cairo during protests in mid-September against a US-made film mocking Islam's Prophet Mohamed.

"This is the first time that a complaint filed for denigrating Christianity has been investigated," Naguib Gebrail, Coptic lawyer and head of the Egyptian Union of Human Rights, told Ahram Online. "I personally have filed three complaints in the past against Abu Islam Abdullah and they were never looked into."

He added: "We strongly condemn the double standards regarding lawsuits related to contempt for religion." 

Gebrail went on to note that four Coptic-Christians charged with defaming Islam remained in police custody in different governorates of Egypt pending investigation.

"All four were brought to court immediately following their arrests, while Abdullah was not immediately detained," Gebrail claimed.

Hani Gadallah, editor of Egypt's Tahrir newspaper, also faces charges for publishing an interview with Abdullah in which the latter disparages the Christian religion.

Abdullah's trial is slated to begin on 30 September.

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