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Romani Murad Imprisoned for Charges of Blasphemy, A New Violation to Freedom of Expression & Belief

The undersigned organizations condemn the verdict by Bandar Assiut II court of Misdemeanor on the 1st of June 2013 in case no. 2939/2013 against Coptic Lawyer “Romani Murad Saad” sentenced in absentia to one year in prison and a 500 EGP fine as well as ordering him to pay a sum of 10 thousand EGP as temporary civil compensation to the civil claimants who accused him of deliberate insult to the Muslim religion.

The case began towards the end of May 2012 during a heated facebook discussion between Romani Murad Saad and a number of Islamist lawyers on a page titled “Union of Assiut young lawyers” over the second phase of the recent presidential elections. Romani expressed his dissatisfaction with the results of the first round of the elections resulting in a rerun between candidates Mohamed Morsi and Ahmed Shafik and his wish to boycott the second round of elections, upon which he was subject to fierce opposition and accusation of being a supporter of Mubarak, selling out on the blood of martyrs in addition to other attacks by Islamist lawyers.

Following that discussion some of those lawyers filed a complaint against him on the beginning of July of the same year accusing him of insulting Islam during a discussion between them, addressing some religious issues, inside the library of the Assiut branch of the Bar Association. The prosecution listened to the two complaining lawyers, upon which it requested more information by the criminal investigation and the truth about the complaint.

The results of the investigations did not confirm the truth of the allegations, upon which the prosecution ordered further investigations by the directorate of criminal research, which equally concluded to have found no evidence of the allegations.
The undersigned organizations express their complete refusal of this kind of cases which target freedom of opinion and expression, as well as condemn the ease by which investigation bodies condemn citizens of such accusations, and bring them to trial in the absence of serious evidence, which in turn encourages like minded complainants to silence differing voices or voices that are considered unacceptable by them.

The organizations also express their deep concern regarding the increase in the number of cases of defamation of religion against Copts, which strongly indicate that such cases have become a weapon for religious discrimination, oppression of religious minorities and oppression of right to expression of belief.

Finally the undersigned organizations hold Egyptian authorities responsible for such violations by ignoring demands by human rights organizations regarding amendment of legislative provisions regulating such crimes as stated in articles 98, 160 and 161 of the penal code, all of which are directly related to the violation of freedom of expression of belief and the continued use of which results in those vague and ungrounded accusations, paid for by years in prison.

Signatory organizations:

  1. Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression.
  2. El Nadeem Centre for Psychological Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence
  3. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
  4. Hisham Mubarak Law Center
  5. Nazra for Feminist Studies
  6. The Egyptian Foundation for the Advancement of Childhood Conditions
  7. The Human Rights Legal Assistance Group
  8. Centre for Egyptian Women Legal Assistance
  9. The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights
  10. Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies
  11. Appropriate Communications Techniques for Development
  12. Arab Network for Human Rights Information
  13. The New Woman Foundation
  14. Habi Center for Environmental Rights
  15. Support for Information Technology Center