26 December 2012

Egypt: Appeal Court Urged to Overturn Coptic Blogger's Conviction

Reporters Without Borders is relieved to learn that the Coptic Christian blogger Albert Saber Ayyad was finally released on bail on 17 December and urges the judicial system to overturn his conviction on appeal.

When a Cairo suburb court sentenced Ayyad to three years in prison on a charge of "denigrating religions" on 12 December, his lawyer, Ahmed Ezzat, a member of the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, immediately announced that he would appeal.

After bail of 1,000 Egyptian pounds (123 euros) was paid the same day, Ayyad should have been released at once pending the outcome of the appeal, but he was held illegally until 17 December. A decision on the appeal is expected on 26 January.

Accused by a neighbour of heading an "atheist" group on Facebook, Ayyad was arrested at his Cairo home on 13 September on charges of blasphemy, insulting religion and inciting sedition for posting a sequence from an anti-Islamic video on Facebook and elsewhere online.

He had been facing a possible five-year jail sentence on the blasphemy charge under article 98 of Egypt's criminal code. Interviewed by Agence-France Presse outside the court, Ezzat said his client had "nothing to do with the insulting film but the case is being used as a way to calm popular anger."

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