Two Christian children detained in Egypt accused of blasphemy


Two Christian children, aged 9 and 10, were arrested in Egypt accused of desecrating a Quran in another case of a “blasphemy” law being used against minors.

Mina Nady Farag (9) and Nabil Nagy Rizk (10) were detained on 2 October after Ibrahim Mohamed Ali, the imam of the local mosque in the village of Ezbet Marco, Beni Suef, accused the boys of tearing up pages of the Quran and urinating on them.

He initially took the youngsters to the church and asked the minister to punish them. But, not satisfied with the church leader’s response, Ali pursued legal action. The boys were subsequently arrested and taken to a juvenile detention centre.

Nabil’s father said that the youngsters were both illiterate and therefore did not know the content of the papers that they had found among rubbish in the street. He said the children were searching for “something useful” when they came across a plastic bag containing torn papers.

Mina and Nabil were released after two days, apparently following the intervention of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi. He is said to have ruled that the boys’ detention was in violation of international conventions on children’s rights that Egypt has signed.

But Mina and Nabil have not been acquitted, and their release was granted only on the condition that their families bring the boys in for questioning whenever required.

Muslim residents of Ezbet Marco have prevented the church minister from entering the village, accusing him of failing to chastise the boys adequately.

A number of Christians in Egypt have faced prosecution for insulting Islam in recent months, but this is the first case to be brought against children.

Rimsha Masih update

The incident follows the detention of 14-year-old Christian girl Rimsha Masih on a blasphemy charge in Pakistan in August.

She was released on bail following an international outcry, and the case against her seemed likely to collapse after witnesses came forward saying they had seen the local imam, Khalid Jadoon Chishti, plant evidence on the teenager.

But last week, three of the four witnesses withdrew their statements, saying that they had been coerced into testifying against the imam.

Islamabad police chief Bin Yamin said investigators did not pressure them into making false statements and if they had changed them now, “they are just lying”.

The retraction of the statements against Chishti leaves Rimsha in a much more vulnerable position. A court has ordered a stay of proceedings in her case, which will next be heard on 17 October. Her lawyers are seeking a dismissal.

Source:  Barnabas Aid

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