(Beirut) – Egyptian authorities should quash blasphemy sentences handed down to four Christian children and their teacher over a video mocking ISIS. They should also revoke the penal code article that authorities use to prosecute blasphemy.
On February 25, 2016, a juvenile minor offenses court in Minya governorate sentenced three children to five years in prison and ordered the fourth placed in a juvenile facility for imitating Islamic prayer and the act of beheading in a 32-second video that their teacher filmed. The teacher was sentenced to three years in a separate trial.
“These children shouldn’t face prison for expressing themselves, even with an immature joke,” said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East director. “The continued prosecution of blasphemy cases in Egypt goes against the government’s claim to be promoting a more inclusive vision of religion.”
Two relatives of the children told Human Rights Watch that the teacher filmed the video during a trip in February 2015, shortly after a Libyan affiliate of the extremist group Islamic State, also known as ISIS, released a video showing their beheading of 21 abducted Christians, 20 of them from Minya.
The juvenile court, in the town of Bani Mazar in Minya, sentenced Mueller Edward, 17; Bassem Hanna, 16; and Alber Ashraf, 16, to five years in prison, while ordering Clinton Yousef, 17, placed in a juvenile facility.