Cairo court sentences man to 3 years for defamation of religion

Dec. 12, 2012 at 5:23 PM

CAIRO, Dec. 12 (UPI) -- An Egyptian court sentenced a man to three years in prison for defamation of religion, which a human rights group called an attack on freedom of expression.

Alber Saber Ayad, 27, an activist, was found guilty of posting material on the Internet that defamed religion, Amnesty International -- which said it called for Ayad's immediate and unconditional release -- reported Wednesday.

Ayad, who had been arrested at his Cairo home on Sept. 13, is scheduled to be released on a $160 bond Thursday. The arrest came after groups of men surrounded Ayad's house and called for his death. They accused him of atheism, heresy and promoting a movie, "The Innocence of Muslims," which some consider offensive.

"This is an outrageous verdict and sentence for a person whose only 'crime' was to post his opinions online," the deputy director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Program, Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, said.

Ayad's verdict comes as Egyptians are about to vote on a new constitution. If the constitution is passed, it will protect freedom of expression. That freedom, however, will essentially outlaw criticism of religion and persons, as two articles in the constitution prohibit defaming or insulting religion or individuals, Amnesty International said.

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