(Photo: REUTERS/Noor Khamis)
The Egyptian courts have closed the case of two young Christian boys accused of blasphemy for allegedly desecrating d a Quran, a decision that has prompted critics to question the direction of Egypt's freedom of speech laws.
"The case has been closed […] and today we knew that the charges were dropped and the children were released after a deal was reached between Muslims, Christians and security officials in the area," Gamal Eid, one of the defense lawyers in the case, told Ahram Online.
Two brothers, Mina Nadi, 9, and Nabil Nadi, 10, were accused of tearing up a copy of the Quran and urinating on it in early October after two residents in their small town of Marco, south of Cairo, filed complaints with authorities.
The boys were placed in juvenile detention on Oct. 2, according to the Daily Mail, but were eventually eleased on Oct. 10.
The "deal" which was reached between Muslims, Christians, and security officials in this southern area has yet to be revealed.
This case serves as another example of Egypt's exercise of its anti-blasphemy laws.
In late September, Egyptian courts practiced a rare flexing of their "anti-blasphemy laws" when they decided to hold a trial for radical Muslim blogger Ahmed Mohammed Abdullah, known as Abu Islam, who tore up pages of the New Testament Bible while protesting in front of Cairo's U.S. embassy in mid-September.
Traditionally, the majority of Egypt's anti-blasphemy court cases revolve around the defense of the Quran and the Muslim religion. Christians make up only 10 percent of the country's 834 million people, according to recent censuses.
Critics contend that the new use of these blasphemy laws could be a prelude to the country's new constitution, slated to be minted in late October.
Although it is unclear what the country's new freedom of speech and freedom of religion rights will be in the new constitution, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has previously made it clear that he will not stand for acts or language that insult one's religion.
"Egypt respects freedom of expression [but] not a freedom of expression that targets a specific religion or a specific culture," Morsi said in a speech at the United Nations in mid-September.
In reference to this most recent case involving the two young brothers, Ishak Ibrahim, a researcher with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, told Daily News Egypt that blasphemy court cases in Egypt are increasing.
"These incidents are on the rise and we are seeing an increase in contempt of religion cases and unfortunately most of the cases end up with jail sentences," Ibrahim told the local paper.