Kirollos Nashed's trial on charges of "contempt of Christianity" adjourned, Bishop Benjamin summoned to appear in court


17 January 2024

The Economic Misdemeanor Court in Tanta adjourned the trial of Kirollos Refaat Nashed, an assistant lecturer at the Faculty of Electronic Engineering at Menoufia University, on the backdrop of a complaint filed by Anba Benjamin, the Bishop of Menoufia.

The adjournment came upon a request from the defendant's defence team, including the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) lawyer, to review the case. The defence team also requested the display of a video of an interview conducted with Bishop Benjamin aired on "Mesat" TV channel, in which he declared that he asked his lawyer to “close the defendant's Facebook page only” and did not ask him to file a complaint against him or to sue him.

The court decided to adjourn the trial to 23 January for review. It also ordered Bishop Benjamin to appear in court to confirm his desire to lodge a complaint and file a civil lawsuit against Nashed, as the bishop's lawyer sued for damages worth 100,001 pounds.

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 Bishop Benjamin 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.

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.