Egypt Court Refuses to Charge Christian Tycoon With Blasphemy

A court in Egypt has rejected the second of two lawsuits Islamists filed against a local Christian tycoon and politician, accusing him of insulting Islam after he posted a cartoon of Mickey Mouse with a beard and Minnie in a face veil on Twitter.

The court, headed by Judge Sherif Kamel, dismissed the case against telecom tycoon and politician Naguib Sawiris, saying the plaintiffs had no legal standing in the case, local media reported on the weekend.

The main plaintiff in the case was Mamdouh Ismail, a defense attorney who has represented various Egyptians accused of terrorism offenses. He is also a former member of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad group and works with the conservative Islamist Al-Nour Party.

Sawiris, the head of Orascom Telecom and founder of the Free Egyptians Party, tweeted the cartoon in June last year, and some Islamists circulated it to criticize him. The businessman apologized and removed the posting on Twitter, but his opponents carried on with the accusation and some of his clients boycotted his company.

"I thank God for this ruling because I feel that there is still hope," Sawiris said on Twitter after the ruling. "Congratulations to an open, free and smiling Egypt that respects all religions."

Sawiris, a vocal opponent of hardline Islamists, was facing another lawsuit in another court on the same charge. The court rejected that case last month on similar grounds.

The plaintiff's Al-Nour Party won most parliamentary seats, after the more moderate Freedom and Justice Party (Muslim Brotherhood), in last year's election. Sawiris' liberal party won 15 percent of the votes.

Egypt's parliament has an Islamist majority for the first time in its history. Islamists gained prominence in the Egyptian politics after the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in February last year. Mubarak, who ruled for three decades, was authoritarian and kept Islamists under check.

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