Four teenage Coptic students from the village of Nassriya in Beni Mazar, Minya, Upper Egypt, have been allowed by Beni Mazar Misdemeanours Court to take their final exams while in detention by the police, and are currently doing so. The young Copts were detained last April and charged with derision of Islam.
Back then,the 26-year-old Coptic teacher Gad Younan was accused of shooting a 30-second video clip of the four Coptic teenagers who were sarcastically performing a depiction of the IS beheading of the 20 Copts and one Ghanaian in Libya last February. When Younan passed them and asked what they were doing they answered that they were “praying”. Younan laughed and said: “Gamaan”, a term usually told to a Muslim when he completes his prayers, and filmed the scene. The young Copts were apparently sarcastic of views that IS savagery is based upon true Islamic teachings.
Mr Younan had the video clip on a memory card on his mobile phone, but he lost that card which was later found by the village Muslims. As the video was circulated, Muslims found it insulting and claimed the Copts must be punished for deriding Islam. Even though the police caught Mr Younan and the families of the Coptic teenagers handed them over to the police, The village Muslims waged several attacks against the Copts, screaming insults against Christians and Christianity pelting the Coptic homes with stones, knocking threateningly on their doors and windows, and altogether terrorising the village Coptic community. A Coptic-owned photo studio, pharmacy and several homes were damaged.
The violence subsided at the intervention of moderate Muslim village elders and the security forces, but the four Coptic teenagers have been held in custody ever since. Mr Younan was released on bail by Beni Mazar Appeals Court, but could not go back home since the local community had banished him and his family from the village.
According to Ishaq Ibrahim of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), a rights group, cases of deriding Islam have risen drastically following the Arab Spring uprising in January 2011. Defendants do not usually get fair trials since the penal code is not well-defined on such charges, Ibrahim says, and also because the fundamentalists terrorise the judges and the courts.
Lawyers admit that accusing Christians of religious contempt on the basis of weak evidence has become commonplace, revealing a serious flaw in Egyptian society and exhibiting a flagrant breach of international law and international human rights treaties.
17 May 2015