International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned Kerolos Shawky, a Christian in southern Egypt, has been convicted and sentenced to six years in prison and a fine of 6,000 EGP ($840 USD) on charges of blasphemy and contempt of Islam. The ruling was handed down on Tuesday. His defense team plans to appeal and hopes the conviction will be reviewed before the end of this month, one of his lawyers told ICC.
As ICC reported, Kerolos was accused of violating Article 98(f) of the Egyptian Penal Code which prohibits “ridiculing or insulting heavenly religions or inciting sectarian strife” but is often used as a means of persecuting religious minorities, as the United States Commission on Religious Freedom highlighted in its 2014 Annual Report. The accusations brought against Kerolos also sparked violence against Christians in the surrounding area as shops and homes were vandalized and set on fire.
Rafla Zekry Rafla, a lawyer representing Kerolos and president of the Human Rights Commission of the Luxor Bar Association, told ICC he feels the charges are unfair. “Kerolos didn’t intend to insult the Islamic religion, only he made a like on the page of Knights of the Cross on Facebook,” Rafla told ICC.