A blasphemy charge changes everything.
“We didn’t feel safe anymore, I was scared for my sons, you can feel that all the people around you want to kill you or throw you out of the village,” recalled Maria. “It was a time in which we felt we are weakened and broken.”
Maria used to live in an Upper Egyptian village with her husband Abd, who worked in the church as a baker of communion bread. Life with their two children was simple, but their needs were met. Everything changed this past July, when Abd was arrested for insulting Islam over a deleted Facebook post. Despite his arrest, a mob formed to punish all of the village’s Christians, essentially driving Abd’s family out of their home. Maria said, “It was regarding that Abd is a servant in the church and he baked the sacrificial [bread], so that increased the anger toward him, and all of the Muslims knows Abd well.”
For five months, Abd sat in prison with no news about his future, unable to care for his family. Meanwhile, Maria struggled to find a lawyer willing to represent her husband. “Many lawyers refused to work on a case in which the accused is considered to have insulted the Prophet Mohamed,” she shared. “It is an unwise idea to ask a Christian lawyer to work on the case. It doesn’t make sense that Christian lawyer work for a Christian accused on a case of insulting the Prophet!”
Eventually, they found a lawyer and Abd’s legal defense could begin. His case was finally heard at the end of November, and although he was sentenced to three years in prison, his family still had hope. Local judges can face pressure from neighboring Islamic hardliners who want to prosecute a Christian to the full extent of the law. “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,” explained a Christian lawyer who observed the case.
Just one month later, however, their hopes were dashed when the appeal judge upheld Abd’s sentence. The family was crushed. “Abd was very sad; he didn’t expect that he would be jailed for something like that.”
Friends of the family were quick to express outrage. “What [else] is expected by a blasphemy law?” asked one friend. “It is a law meant to be tailored for Christians so anyone can accuse a Christian and no matter what the proof of innocence is, he will be imprisoned.”
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