An Egyptian court on Thursday sentenced three Coptic Christian teenagers to five years in jail for contempt of
Islam after they were seen in a video mocking Muslim prayers.
The teenagers were convicted in Minya, an arid province south of Cairo, where they had been accused of filming a 32-second video in which they mocked the Muslim mode of prayer, said their lawyer, Maher Naguib.
A prominent TV presenter, a poet and a novelist have received jail sentences in recent months for blasphemy or offending public morals, in cases that seem to be at odds with the image of Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who styles himself as a bulwark against extremism.
The police initiated the prosecution of the Coptic teenagers after a Muslim classmate discovered the video. Three of the teenagers were sentenced to five years in prison, while the fourth, who is still under 18, is to be detained at a juvenile detention center.
The teenagers did not attend Thursday’s hearing, and their lawyer said they would appeal the decision. “Their parents have sent them to uncles and aunts outside of Minya,” Mr. Naguib said. “They feared for their safety. They are all terrified and crying now.”
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 who were sentenced to five years were aged between 15 and 17.
Their teacher who is also seen in the video has already been sentenced to three years in jail.
The four teenagers were still free as of Thursday and Naguib said he planned to appeal the judgement.
“They have been sentenced for contempt of Islam and inciting sectarian strife,” Naguib told AFP.
“The judge didn’t show any mercy. He handed down the maximum punishment.”