A cassation court rejected Sunday the appeal filed by scholar and TV presenter Islam Al-Beheiry against his one-year prison sentence on charges of “religious contempt”.
In December 2015, Misr Al-Qadima misdemeanour court reduced Al-Beheiry’s previous five-year sentence down to one year. Al-Beheiry was arrested over blasphemy charges after he questioned the authenticity of Sunni religious texts.
Al-Beheiry was acquitted from similar charges in June 2015 after he appealed a five-year prison sentence. About 48 lawsuits were filed against Al-Behairy due to the views he expressed on his now suspended TV show, With Islam, that aired on privately-owned channel Al-Qahera Wal-Nas.
Before it was suspended in April 2015, the TV show sparked controversy and received a wave of condemnation from the state’s religious bodies, led by Al-Azhar. On his show, Al-Beheiry showed several video clips of famous preachers and criticised their religious arguments. Al-Behairy’s supporters claimed that he was working in accordance with the president’s initiative to renew religious discourse.
Al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayeb also filed a lawsuit against Al-Beheiry, accusing him of insulting the prestigious institution and its scholars. Al-Tayeb appealed Article 7 of the Constitution which stipulates that Al-Azhar is an independent scientific institution and the main source for Islamic and religious affairs.
The Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), among other rights institutions, condemned Al-Beheiry’s detention and demanded that the charges against him be dropped.
Following the verdict, Al-Beheiry said: “Egypt is a land of injustice.”