RELIGION

Sherif Gaber, Egyptian Student, Sentenced To Prison For Atheist Facebook Posts

02/19/2015 04:09 pm ET | Updated Feb 19, 2015
MOHAMED EL-SHAHED via Getty Images

A 22-year-old college student was sentenced to one year in prison for "contempt of religion" by an Egyptian court on Monday, according to Daily News Egypt.

Sherif Gaber was studying commerce at the Suez Canal University in Ismailia when the school's administration reported him to authorities in 2013 for allegedly setting up a pro-atheism Facebook page. Under Monday's ruling Gaber can be freed on bail of 1,000 Egyptian pounds, about $130, until his appeal trial begins, judicial sources told AFP.

"The state of freedom of expression in Egyptian universities is very bad," Fatma Serag, a lawyer with the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE), told Daily News Egypt. "I strongly condemn the ruling issued against Sherif Gaber, and I hope his innocence is granted by appeal."

The student's supporters set up a "Free Sherif Gaber" Change.org petition and Facebook page to raise awareness about his case, which is one of several convictions against atheism supporters Egypt has witnessed in recent years.

In January, 21-year-old Karim Ashraf Mohammed al-Banna was sentenced to three years in prison for insulting Islam by promoting atheism on Facebook. Alber Saber, a 27-year-old blogger, was charged with blasphemy and received a three-year sentence in 2012 for creating a web page called “Egyptian Atheists.”

Article 64 of Egypt's constitution states that “freedom of belief is absolute,” according to Human Rights Watch. But article 98 of the Egyptian Penal Code says that a person may be sentenced to between six months to five years in prison for “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.”

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