(AP) – A Cairo court on Saturday ordered the government to block access to the YouTube website for 30 days for carrying an anti-Islam film that caused deadly riots across the world, but the ruling can be appealed and based on precedent may not be enforced.
Judge Hassouna Tawfiq ordered YouTube blocked for carrying a 14-minute trailer for the movie “Innocence of Muslims,” which portrays Islam’s central figure Prophet Muhammad as a religious fraud, womanizer and pedophile. The film, which was produced by an Egyptian-born Christian who’s now a U.S. citizen, sparked deadly protests that killed more than 50 people in more than 20 countries last year.
In the past, a similar order to ban pornographic websites deemed offensive in Egypt has not been enforced because of high costs associated with technical applications, although blocking YouTube may be easier to enforce.
YouTube’s parent company, Google, declined to remove the video from the website last year, but restricted access to it in certain countries, including Egypt, Libya and Indonesia, because it says the video broke laws in those countries. At the height of the protests, YouTube was ordered blocked in several countries, including Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah issued an order blocking all websites with access to the anti-Islam film in the conservative kingdom.
Lawyer Mohammed Hamid Salim, who filed the lawsuit in Cairo, alleged the film constitutes a threat to Egypt’s security. Protesters in Cairo scaled the U.S. Embassy’s walls and brought down the U.S. flag in a demonstration against the film last September. Street clashes ensued for days around the embassy.
Similarly last year, an Egyptian court convicted in absentia seven Egyptian Coptic Christians and a Florida-based American pastor, sentencing them to death on charges linked to the anti-Islam film that had sparked riots in parts of the Muslim world.
The case was seen as largely symbolic because the defendants, who mostly live in the United States, were outside Egypt and unlikely to ever face the sentence. In a related case, a Cairo court also convicted a Coptic Christian blogger who shared the film on social networking sites. The blogger was sentenced to three years in prison for blasphemy and contempt of religion, but released on bail shortly thereafter.
During the 18-day uprising that toppled longtime Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, the government moved to block the entire Internet for several days in an attempt to disrupt communications among activists. The measure failed to curb huge street protests against the regime.
By AYA BATRAWY