Egyptian courts ridiculed after toddler and teens are jailed
‘There is no justice in Egypt. No reason. Logic committed suicide a while ago. Egypt went crazy. Egypt is ruled by a bunch of lunatics.’
Those were the words spoken by Egyptian lawyer Mohammed Abu Hurira after a military court imposed a life sentence on Ahmed Mansour Qorani Sharara, 3 ½, above, for killing three people, carrying guns and firebombs, blocking a road with burning tires, and trying to damage government buildings — when he was aged just one.
After an international outcry over the sentence, red-faced milirary officials conceded that it was “a case of mistaken identity”, but the disfunctional Egyptian judicial system again came under the spotlight for the insane jailing this of week of three Coptic Christian teenagers for contempt of Islam after they were seen in a video mocking Muslim prayers. They each received five-year sentences.
A judge in the central Egyptian province of Minya also sent a fourth defendant, aged 15, to a juvenile detention centre for an indefinite period.
Defence lawyer Maher Naguib said the four had not intended to insult Islam in the video, but merely to mock the beheadings carried out by jihadists of the Islamic State group.
The video was filmed on a mobile phone in January 2015 when the three teenagers were aged between 15 and 17.
Their teacher who is also seen in the video has already been sentenced to three years in jail.
Naguib said he planned to appeal the judgement.
They have been sentenced for contempt of Islam and inciting sectarian strife. The judge didn’t show any mercy. He handed down the maximum punishment.
In the video, one teenager can be seen kneeling on the ground and reciting Muslim prayers while others stand behind him, laughing.
Later one of them is seen making a sign with his thumb to indicate the beheading of the one who is kneeling.
The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, an independent rights group, said ahead of Thursday’s judgement that it watched the video and found that the four teenagers were performing scenes
Imitating slaughter carried out by terrorist groups.
The Commission said in a statement that the four were detained for 45 days and subjected to “ill-treatment” before being released pending trial.
The group warned that there was a return of:
Using contempt of religion as accusations against writers and religious minorities.
Another rights group, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, said that between 2011 and 2013, 42 defendants were tried in similar cases and of them 27 were convicted.
Egypt’s constitution outlaws insults against the three monotheist religions recognised by the state — Islam, Christianity and Judaism.
Thursday’s judgement comes a month after female writer Fatima Naoot was jailed for three years for insulting Islam after she criticised the slaughter of animals during a major religious festival.
Mohammed Abu Hurira’s life sentence was imposed last week in a mass trial of 107 people suspected of being members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. Yhe charges stemmed from the protests, street clashes and police crackdowns in Egypt after the military overthrow of the elected Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, in 2013.
After an uproar over the conviction of the boy the military said that it was a case of mistaken identity, and that the authorities had actually meant to try a 16-year-old student with the same name. The teenager is on the run, the military added in a post on its official Facebook page.
But that, too, may be a mistake: Before the military statement, a police spokesman, Abu Bakr Abdel-Karim, said in a television interview that the wanted culprit was the toddler’s uncle, a 51-year-old man who has a similar name.
In an interview on Tuesday, Mr. Abdel-Karim said the reason for the mix-up remained unknown. A military spokesman, Mohammed Samir, refused to comment.
The case shed a stark light on the often dysfunctional Egyptian judiciary, which since 2013 has sentenced hundreds of people to death or to life in prison in mass trials on what human rights advocacy groups have called trumped-up charges.
The army’s announcements about the case of mistaken identity have not included any apology for the distress caused to the child’s family, which was evident in an appearance the boy and his father made on one of Egypt’s most-watched talk shows.
The show’s host, Wael el-Ibrashy, favoured the ouster of Morsi and is a prominent supporter of the current government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. But he said despondently:
I don’t know how people are meant to believe in justice after they see this.
Hat tip: BarrieJohn