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Egyptian writer imprisoned for "contempt of religion"

by Hannah Tooley

Fatima Naaot, a writer, poet and broadcaster, has found guilty of "insulting Islam" and sentenced to three years imprisonment for "contempt of religion".

She was sentenced for comments she made online in relation to the festival of Eid, an important celebration in the Muslim calendar.

One ritual includes the public sacrificing a sheep or goat to commemorate Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son.

She was sentenced on 26th January for the comments she made on her Facebook page in October 2015. She said that the tradition was the "greatest massacre committed by human beings" and wrote "Happy massacre, everybody".

The former parliamentary candidate, admitted writing the post but denied that her intention was to insult Islam.

She has been found guilty of being in "contempt of religion" and has been sentenced to three years in prison as well as a fine.

An article in the Egyptian Penal Code says that "exploiting religion in spreading, either by words, in writing, or in any other means, extreme ideas for the purposes of inciting strife, ridiculing or insulting [the Abrahamic faiths] or a sect following it, or damaging national unity", is punishable with prison sentences of between six months and five years, and fines of 500-1,000 Egyptian Pounds (around £42-£84).

Fatima Naaot will appeal the verdict, however her sentence is already underway.

Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of CSW, said: "The 'contempt of religion' sentence handed to Fatima Naaot is indicative of a worrying trend.

"Contempt of religion and blasphemy charges constitute a significant impediment to the emergence of a healthy and constructive religious debate that promotes a more tolerant society.

"We continue to urge the Egyptian authorities to amend Article 98 of the penal code, using the Rabat Plan of Action as a guideline.

"Furthermore, we call for a judicial review of all cases convicted under this article, including those of Ms Naaot and Mr al-Beheiry."

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