Egyptian Christian detained over Muhammad Facebook pictures

Published 03 January 2012  |  
Military authorities detained a Christian student last week for posting images of the prophet Muhammad on his Facebook page.

The Coptic student, Gamal Massoud, posted drawings of Muhammad that many of his peers saw as mocking toward the revered Islamic prophet.

The 17-year-old teen argues that he did not post the images on Facebook, but rather that they were posted without his knowledge.

A security official announced Saturday that Massoud would remain in custody for four days, and could face charges of "contempt for Islam".

The arrest of Massoud has caused rioting in Assuit, southern Egypt, with villagers attacking Massoud’s home as well as the homes of other Christians. Security and military forces were reportedly dispersed across Massoud’s hometown to prevent further vandalism, firing tear gas at the Muslim protesters.

Since the Arab Spring uprisings in February, the country has seen a mass exodus of Christians, with 93,000 Christians emigrating since March.

The Arab Spring uprisings caused many radical Muslim political groups which were once underground to gain substantial momentum and political sway, according to observers.

Clashes between Muslims and Christians turned especially violent on October 9, in what has been dubbed the Maspero Massacre.

Coptic Christians were participating in a peaceful march in Cairo, protesting the burning of a Coptic Church in Southern Aswan on September 30.

The protest grew violent when military officials allegedly drove tanks into the crowd of protesters, killing 27.

Three soldiers have been charged with "involuntary manslaughter" in the Maspero Massacre. Protesters have expressed dissatisfaction with the charge, arguing that the military court practices leniency on the soldiers who allegedly used their tanks to physically subdue protesters.

"Military judiciary ignored 14 martyrs shot by live ammunition including martyr Mina Daniel and charged the three soldiers with manslaughter, which lacks the minimum level of guarantees for seriousness and justice in a fair trial," human rights organisation the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights said.

"It is a continuation of the trend of the ruling military council of denying any responsibility for the crime," the human rights group added.

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