Muslim cleric Ahmed Abdullah, also known as Abu Islam, speaks to media as he arrives at court for the opening session of his trial in Cairo (Photo: Reuters)
Trial proceedings in the case of Egyptian Islamist preacher Abu Islam Ahmed Abdullah, who faces charges of defaming the Christian faith by burning copies of the New Testament in front of the US embassy in mid-September, have been adjourned to 14 October.
Abu Islam, who is the owner of the Umma and Mariya satellite television channels, has defended himself by saying that he set fire to an English-language Bible version and not the Arabic-language Bible version approved by Egypt's Coptic Church.
The act was committed on 11 September amid angry demonstrations outside the US embassy in Cairo to protest the appearance online of a short film mocking Islam and the Prophet Mohamed.
On Sunday, supporters of Abu Islam – a well-known Salafist figure in Egypt – accompanied him to a Cairo criminal court in the capital's Heliopolis district.
"This is the first time that charges filed for denigrating Christianity have been investigated," Naguib Gebrail, head of the Egyptian Union for Human Rights, said of the case. "I personally have filed three complaints in the past against Abu Islam Abdullah, and none of them were ever looked into."
"We strongly condemn the double standards regarding lawsuits related to contempt for religion," Gebrail told Ahram Online.
He went on to note that four Coptic-Christians charged with defaming Islam still remain in police custody in different governorates of Egypt pending investigation.
"All four Copts were brought to court immediately following their arrest, while Abdullah was not immediately detained following his act," Gebrail asserted.
Hani Gadallah, editor of Egyptian independent daily Tahrir, also faces charges for publishing an interview with Abdullah in which the latter disparaged the Christian religion.