CAIRO: Cairo Misdemeanor Court sentenced controversial TV presenter Islam el-Behery Sunday to five years in prison over charges of defaming religion.
The verdict was based on a lawsuit filed by a citizen named Mohamed Abdel Salam El-Asran, based on some Penal Codes articles that criminalize defamation of religion.
However, the sentence is preliminary and can be applead by the defendant.
Article 98F in the Egyptian Penal Code stipulates that those who use religion in speech, writing or any means to “instigate strife and division, or disdain and contempt for any of the revealed religions or the sects belonging thereto” will be sentenced to not less than six months and up to five years in prison.
Beheriry hosted “With Islam,” a daily show on private TV channel Al Kahera Wal Nas, providing his interpretation of Islam. His opinions stirred controversy for questioning the credibility of the sources of the Hadith, (Prophet Muhammad’s sayings;) the second basic reference for Islamic teachings after the Quran.
On April 1, Al-Azhar, Egypt’s foremost Muslim Sunni authority, filed a lawsuit against Behery for “broadcasting ideas that violate the foundations of Islam and its legacy,” according to Al-Ahram.
A few days later, the General Authority for Investment (GAFI) gave a grace period of 15 days to Al Kahera Wal Nas to shut down its controversial show.
On April 22, the TV channel suspended the show.
“I am unable to explain the amount of horrors and farce I have been going through regarding this issue… We are moving far, far, far backwards. What is coming is much worse, beyond imagination,” Behery wrote on Facebook following the channel’s decision.
However, the lawsuit filed by Al-Azhar demanding the Prime Minster and Minster of Investment to end the broadcasting of the show was rejected May 19 by the State Lawsuit Authority for lack of jurisdiction.
Suspending or revoking media licenses fall within the jurisdiction of GAFI, while cancelling a program or shutting down a channel is in the hands of NileSat, according to the memo of the Sate Lawsuit Authority, a court at the State Council.