Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) condemns public prosecution’s decision no. 7517/2012 Faqous misdemeanors, registered as 419/2012, accusing a student at the first year, faculty of Arts, Banha university and her colleague Hamdi Gamal Ali, 22 years, second year student at the High Institute of Engineering and Technology, 10th of Ramadan City, of defamation of religion. Both students are to appear in front of the criminal court on the 2nd of January 2013.
The story began on the 3rd of October 2012 when the female student returned late to her house, where her younger brother physically attacked her leading her to escape home late at night. The following day she went to Faqous police station to file a complaint against her brother, mother and uncle who subjected her to violence in view of her difference in opinion and her refusal to wear the veil. She accused them of beating her and attempting to kill her more than once. The police station then summoned the accused family members, upon which the mother filed a complaint against her daughter (no. 7517/2012) accusing her of holding atheist ideas and defamation of Islam, adding that three f her friends, Hamdi Gamal, Mohamed Hamdi and Ahmed Tantawi, convinced her of those ideas.
After concluding the hearing with both parties the public prosecution decided to exclude the claim of attempted murder against the family and to refer the student and her friend to trial for charges of defamation of Islam and propagation of atheist ideas.
This case is not the first case of its kind lately taking place on the Egyptian scene. Only a few days ago Alber Saber was sentenced to three years in prison for similar charges, i.e. defamation of religion, a charge made against any person who differs in opinion from the mainstream of society. In view of the ongoing violations of freedom of opinion and belief, especially after the adoption of the new constitution which restricts freedom of belief to the three main religions, those two students could receive a similar sentence to that of Alber, disrupting their academic career as well as the psychological harm that would cause them.
AFTE considers those cases as a warning to all opponents to the religious dictatorship ruling Egypt at present, where all opposing ideas would be considered a punishable crime, including by prison. AFTE believes that freedom of expression and opinion, even if different or shocking to society, is a right indiscriminately of all citizens, and not a punishable crime. Freedom of opinion and expression is a right granted by all constitutions, as well as international conventions and declarations. The Egyptian government must reform its legislative and constitutional mechanisms to grant that right without restrictions.