21-Year-Old Sentenced To Prison For Three Years After Coming Out As An Atheist On Facebook

A 21-year-old Egyptian man has been sentenced to three years in prison for coming out as an Atheist on Facebook. The AFP reports that Karim al-Banna was found guilty of violating Egypt’s blasphemy laws, after he allegedly made insulting remarks towards Islam. This occurred in a court in the Nile Delta province of Baheira, last Saturday. The move is in an effort to crack down on non-sanctioned belief systems, such as Atheism.

“He was handed down a three-year prison sentence, and if he pays a bail of 1,000 Egyptian pounds (which is equivalent to $140 U.S dollars) the sentence can be suspended until a verdict is issued by an appeals court,” Abdel Nabi, Karim al-Banna’s lawyer told the AFP. An appeal is planned to take place on March 9.

It may seem hard to believe but Karim al-Banna’s father testified against him in court. He told the court that his son was, “was embracing extremist ideas against Islam.”

Four other individuals have been sentenced to prison over violating Egypt’s blasphemy law’s over the past few years according to a report from the U.S commission on International Religious Freedom. Those sentences range from three to six years.

Since the ousting of Hosni Mubarak, the number of prison sentences for violating Egypt’s blasphemy laws has increased. The Middle East Institute reports:

“While blasphemy cases occurred under former president Hosni Mubarak, they have increased since the revolution that removed him, and particularly since the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi came to power as president. The majority of these cases in Egypt are filed against Christians by Muslims. Recent cases have targeted teachers, activists, politicians, writers, artists, social media users, and even children.”

Egypt’s blasphemy laws call for a minimum six-month to five-year prison sentence, as well as fines. The three Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are illegal to insult publicly. Islam is the official state religion of Egypt.

Featured Image Credit: Ahmad Badr [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons