Four Egyptian kids face up to five years in a detention facility for making fun of the Islamic State in a video. Their teacher could be sent to prison.
The five Coptic individuals, Christian descendants of non-Arab people whose Pharaohs ruled ancient Egypt, were charged with “insulting Islam” after their Muslim neighbors took the video to police.
The four boys, aged between 15 and 16, could serve time in a youth detention center if the court finds them guilty of violating Egypt’s blasphemy law, Fox News reported Saturday. The five have already spent weeks in police holding cells.
Egyptian Christian and civil rights groups are leading calls for their release saying the Sunni Islamic majority in Egypt uses the blasphemy law to persecute religious minorities, among them Christians.
“They are some kids who decided to have fun in a private place,” Mina Thabet, a Coptic activist and research at the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, told Fox.
“They were on a trip with their teacher, but somehow rumor got out that they’d thrown down the Koran, and had insulted Islam, so that led to their arrests,” Ms. Thabet said.
The teacher, Gad Younan, 42, was chaperoning the four boys — and a fifth coptic youth seen in the video — on a faith-based field trip outside their home village of Al-Nasriyah in Minya Governorate, about 140 miles south of Cairo.
The 32-second video shows the boys mocking the Islamic State by playing out a beheading. Ms. Thabet told Fox that the video does not support the charges that the boys insulted Islam.
“They use some words that are used in Muslim prayers, but they are in no way being disrespectful to Islam,” Ms. Thabet told Fox. “And even if they were, they should have the right to free speech — but in Egypt we have this law.”
Ms. Thabet explained that Article 98(f) of the Egyptian Penal Code criminalizes a series of faith-related comments, including “insulting a heavenly religion or a sect following it.
A Libyan affiliate of the Islamic State terrorist group recently released a video purportedly showing the execution of 21 Christians on a beachfront.
Twenty of the murdered Christians were Copts from the boys’ home governorate of Al Minya, Fox reported.
Muslim residents in Al-Nasriyah filed an initial complaint in early April, leading to Mr. Younan’s arrest and more than 2,000 local Muslims held marches over three days in order to pressure parents to turn the boys over to the authorities.
A judge this week denied the jailed boys leave to take their final school exams and remanded them and Mr. Younan into custody for a further two weeks pending continued investigation, according to a local monitor with Washington-based International Christian Concern (ICC).