2 Coptic children accused of 'insulting Islam' released pending investigation

Emad Abu-Zeid , Thursday 4 Oct 2012

Christian boys arrested for allegedly tearing up Quranic verses released but not acquitted, says attorney general; families sign document confirming children will attend questioning session

Children released but not acquitted in controversial case (Photo: Reuters)

Two Coptic children arrested for insulting Islam in the Upper Egyptian village of Ezbet Marco were released Thursday afternoon pending investigation, according to Ahram Online's reporter in Beni Suef.

The attorney general of Beni Suef told Ahram Online that he ordered the release of Nabil Nagy Rizk, 10, and Mina Nady Farag, 9, "due to their young age."

However the children have yet to be acquitted. A condition of their release, the attorney general explained, is that the "families signed documents confirming they will bring both kids to the prosecution whenever they are needed for questioning." Investigations are expected to take place on Sunday. 

The boys had been detained in the Beni Suef juvenile detention by order of the prosecution since Tuesday, after imam of their local mosque Ibrahim Mohamed Ali accused the children of tearing up pages of the Quran and filed a legal complaint. 

According to Ahram Online reporter in the area, Ali initially took the children to the church and requested that the priest punish them.

Unsatisfied with the church's decision not to castigate the two boys, Ali, together with three other villagers, turned to the courts. 

Nabil's father Nagy Rizk defended the action of the boys in a public statement, explaining that they are illiterate and therefore did not know the content of the papers which they found in a small white bag, as they were playing near a pile of rubbish in the street.

The events in Beni Suef come after a wave of arrests across Egypt of individuals accused of "committing blasphemy."

Most of those arrested were Copts accused of "insulting Islam."

Earlier this month in Sohag, a Coptic school teacher, Bishoy Kamel, was sentenced to six years in prison for posting cartoons deemed defamatory to Islam and Prophet Mohammed on social-networking site Facebook, as well as for insulting President Mohamed Morsi and his family.  

This followed the arrest of a Coptic man, 25-year-old Albert Saber, on 13 September, who was charged with insulting religion for allegedly posting the controversial anti-Islam short film, Innocence of Muslims, also on his Facebook page.

Saber, who was referred to Marg Misdemeanor Court, is still in detention awaiting trial.

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