Egyptian Court Sentences Islamist Cleric, Then Suspends Sentence

An Eqytian court in Cairo sentenced a Muslim cleric to 11 years in jail and slapped on a fine of $430 for publicly ripping up and burning a Bible last year. His son was also sentenced to eight years in prison and given a fine of $286. However, the sentences have been suspended until an appeal is launched.

Islamist preacher Ahmed Abdullah, also known as Abu Islam, infamous for his hate speeches against Coptic Christians, is the head of the Umma and Mariya satellite TV channels. Last September 11, he burned a copy of the Bible at a demonstration in front of the U.S. embassy to protest the anti-Islam film, "Innocence of Muslims." He also announced that his grandson would urinate on the Bible.

A Coptic teacher was recently forced to pay $14,000 on charges of blasphemy, although that sentence was not suspended.

The roughly eight million Coptic Christians constitute at least 10 percent of the population of Egypt and have been under assault since President Mubarak was deposed over two years ago. The new Egyptian constitution’s Article 44, which President Mohamed Morsi signed last December, has a section with an anti-blasphemy law. The article states, "Insult or abuse of all religious messengers and prophets shall be prohibited."


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