According to Persecution International Christian Concern, International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on November 27, Coptic Christian Abd Adel Bebawy was sentenced by an Egyptian court to three years in prison for “insulting Islam in the first degree.” His lawyer was granted access to the verdict on December 6 and has opened an appeal which is expected to be heard at the end of December.
Bebawy was originally arrested in Minbal, a village located in Upper Egypt’s Minya Governorate on July 6, 2018. He had posted on Facebook an image of God, the angel Gabriel, and a verse from the Quran. The day after he was arrested and charged by the police, a mob gathered in Minbal and attacked several Christian homes. It is common for Islamic extremists in Egypt to collectively punish the Christian community for the perceived wrongs of one individual.
One Christian woman, Mariam, shared with ICC shortly following the July attack, “The mob stoned the houses of all the Christians (in Minbal). The Christians were afraid and all locked themselves in their houses and closed the wooden shutters of the windows.”
The attackers have continued to make it clear that Bebawy and his family would not be welcomed back into the village. He has remained imprisoned since July. Regarding the recent verdict, a close relative shared with ICC how she “was expecting this to happen in the first degree. But what I hope is that he will be freed in the appeal.”
She continued to say that she “didn’t care if [they] had to leave their village or the country, [I] just want his freedom.”
It is believed by those familiar with the case that the judge issued the three-year prison sentence so that the local community would not again form a mob. Hakem, a lawyer familiar with the case, said, “Usually the judge gives the maximum penalty in the first degree to secure himself that he applied the law knowing that the other judge in the second degree will reduce or set him free.”
Egypt is designated by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom as a Tier 2 Country. According to the constitution, Islam is the official state religion and Sharia is the principal source of legislation.
Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “Egypt’s record on religious freedom has fluctuated greatly throughout the years. While the constitution guarantees freedom of religion to Christians, this does not necessarily exist in practice. The situation in Minbal shows how delicate the atmosphere is. We must not only pray for the release of Abd Adel Bebawy from prison, but also that any potential progress made toward securing his release would not incite further violence against Christians living in Minbal.”