Kirollos Nashed’s trial on charges of “contempt of Christianity” adjourned, Bishop Benjamin’s lawyer demands the maximum penalty

Press Release

24 January 2024

On January 23rd, the Economic Misdemeanor Court in Tanta adjourned the trial of Kirollos Refaat Nashed to February 6th, to issue a verdict while ordering the defendant to remain in custody. 

Nashed, who works as an assistant lecturer at the Faculty of Electronic Engineering at Menoufia University, is being tried based on a complaint filed by Anba Benjamin, the Archbishop of Menoufia, on a background of religious discussions between the lecturer and the priests of the Martyr Mar Girgis Church in Menouf.

During the session, a new legal representative of Anba Benjamin acknowledged the bishop’s intent to sue Nashed for damages worth 100,001 pounds, despite the bishop having previously denied in televised statements that he asked his former lawyer to do so. The lawyer joined the Public Prosecution in its requests, demanding the maximum penalty against Nashed. 

During the previous session, held on January 16th, the court requested the presence of Bishop Benjamin to confirm his desire to lodge a complaint against Nashed, after the bishop appeared on several Christian TV channels during which he affirmed that he asked his lawyer to close the defendant’s Facebook page only, and did not ask him to file a complaint against or to sue Nashed.

The Public Prosecution levelled a range of charges against Nashed in Case No. 144 of 2024 (Economic Misdemeanor – Tanta). The charges included violating the Egyptian family principles and values, violating the privacy of Bishop Benjamin, insulting and defaming the victim over the phone “by attributing to him things that, if true, would have led the people of his country to disrespect him”, intentionally harassing the bishop by misusing telecommunications equipment, creating and running a Facebook account to commit the crimes stated in the accusations, and disdaining Christianity by promoting extremist ideas.

If convicted, Nashed could face imprisonment for up to five years and a fine of up to 300,000 pounds.

The defendant’s defence team, including EIPR lawyer Samuel Tharwat, presented several arguments, most notably the invalidity of the referral order, the non-application of Article 98 (f) of the Penal Code on contempt of religion and Article 25 of the Anti-Cybercrime Law to the case, the lack of elements of insult and defamation, and the invalidity of investigations.

EIPR warned in a previous statement that Nashed’s trial comes in the context of the crackdown on freedom of expression by institutions and individuals seeking to impose their religious guardianship on citizens in a climate that restricts public freedoms and is supported by state institutions, which should have defended the citizens’ right to freedom of belief and practice of religious rites.

For more details on cases of “contempt of religions”, please see the map of religious freedoms.