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Egyptian man jailed for ‘insulting’ Facebook posts

An Egyptian man landed in jail after his inflammatory postings on Facebook. A court in Cairo sentenced the man to three years with hard labour after finding that “he intentionally insulted the dignity of the Islamic religion and attacked it with insults and ridicule on Facebook”.

The documents of the court described the attack in further detail: “His insults were aimed at the Noble Koran, the true Islamic religion, the Prophet of Islam and his family and Muslims, in a scurrilous manner.”

The court declined to comment on Ayman Yusef Mansur’s offensive statements. Mansur was arrested in August after police tracked him down through his IP address.

It is unclear what Masnur’s personal beliefs are. He created a Facebook page “Al-Monadel Mard”, however, in order to voice his options on the “threat of national unity”.

In Egyptian law, an insult to religion is a prosecutable offence. The court said that “all members of religions are obligated to tolerate the others’ existence”.

Egyptian state news agency MENA reported that the court had found that the defendant “wilfully used outrageous and scurrilous words to defame the Quran”.

Human rights activists were quick to criticise Mansur’s sentence. Heba Morayef, Human Rights Watch spokesperson said, “To sentence someone on the basis of so broad a provision will have a chilling effect in political debate, because there has been so much debate about the role of religion in the state. This comes as yet another violation of freedom of expression”.

Moyref also said the law used to persecute Mansar “is a very vague provision, and it has long been the recommendation of human rights groups to remove that provision”.

This was not the first incident of an Egyptian blogger being arrested for defamatory religious statements. A blogger, Kareem Amer was jailed for insulting the Muslim prophet Mohammed, as well as the former president Hosni Mubarak. Amer was jailed for a year before his eventual release.

Egypt’s military has been in control of the country since the ousting of long-term president Hosni Muburak. Since then they have faced growing criticism for alleged restrictions on the press and prosecution of bloggers.