Economic Misdemeanour Appeals court upholds verdict against blogger, with 3 years imprisonment and a 300,000 EGP fine for managing the "Egyptian Atheists" Facebook page
Yesterday, Sunday, June 21, 2020, Economic Misdemeanour Appeals Court of Alexandria rejected the appeal submitted by the lawyer of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) to the ruling issued on February 27, 2020, and upheld the imprisonment of the activist and blogger Anas Hassan for a period of three years and a fine of 300,000 EGP for "insulting religion and misusing social media."
The security forces arrested activist Anas Hassan from his home in Alexandria in August 2019. And a police report was issued against him on August 21, 2019 that included a report for security follow-up by the Criminal Investigation Department of the General Department of Information Technology at the Ministry of Interior/West Delta branch, for the Facebook page called "The Egyptian Atheists”, that publishes atheistic ideas and criticism of the “divinely revealed religions”, according to the report. And accordingly a permit was issued by the Public Prosecution to seize and search the person managing the page, their residence, and their belongings.
The case No. 23854/2019 was referred to the First Misdemeanor Court in Ameriya, and EIPR lawyer argued that the court does not have the appropriate jurisdiction, at the session of December 16, 2019, and a ruling was issued in the same session that decreed that the court did not have jurisdiction and the case was referred to the Economic Court.
The case was referred under No. 332 of 2019 /Economic Misdemeanors - Ameriya, according to articles (3/4, 171, 161/1, 176 and 198) of the Penal Code, and articles (1, 25, 27, and 38/1) of Law No. 175 of 2018 on combating IT crimes.
The case was reserved for the judgment on the February 27, 2020 session, in which the judgment was issued that the accused be imprisoned for three years and a fine of 300,000 EGP. The judgment was appealed and referred to Case No. 48 of 2020 /Economic Misdemeanour Appeals, the verdict was upheld and the appeal was rejected on the June 21, 2020 session.
EIPR Lawyers began procedures for challenging the ruling before the Court of Cassation.
This ruling comes in a broader context of prosecutions and trials for online expression in general, and for religious expression in particular, and includes a wide range of persecuting of unconventional Islamic ideas such as criticism of some of the revered traditional figures of Sunni Islam, or the expression of ideas of non-Sunni Islamic sects such as Shiites, Ahmadiyya and the Quranites, in addition to expressing atheistic ideas or declaring unbelief and criticizing religions, which the EIPR has monitored since 2011 in its statements and reports on trials of religious expression that were usually associated with Article 98 (f) of the Penal Code, known as “contempt of religion article” that prompted EIPR to contest it as unconstitutional in many cases, but also in conjunction with articles 160, 161 and 176 of Chapter 11 of the Penal Code of" Misdemeanors Related to Religions and Combating Discrimination ", in addition to article 189 related to different means of publication and information dissemination.
Since the promulgation of Law 175 on combating information technology crimes in 2018, its articles have also become the basis for the trials of many bloggers and content makers on the internet, especially article 25 which metes out imprisonment and fines as punishment for "whoever attacks the principles and family values of Egyptian society" via publishing on the internet, according to the article.