Egyptian sentenced to three years in prison after announcing atheism on Facebook

(Photo: PA)

An Egyptian was recently sentenced to three years in prison for being an atheist, his attorney announced this week. 

Karim Ashraf Mohammed Al-Banna identified himself as an atheist on his Facebook page, and was convicted of insulting Islam. 

His online declaration of atheism caused him to be harassed in public, and he went to police in November to file a complaint. Instead, the 21-year-old was arrested, and he remained in jail until his trial, reports. 

During the court proceedings, Al-Banna's father testified against him, saying that his son "was embracing extremist ideas against Islam."

"He was handed down a three-year prison sentence, and if he pays a bail of 1,000 Egyptian pounds ($140) the sentence can be suspended until a verdict is issued by an appeals court," Al-Banna's attorney, Ahmed Abdel Nabi, explained. 

The men plan to file an appeal in the beginning of March. 

The case is similar to that of Sherif Gaber Abdel Azim - an Egyptian who created an atheist Facebook community in 2013, and received a 15-day sentence for contempt of religion. 

In 2012, Egyptian blogger Alber Saber was arrested for posting the controversial film "Innocence of Muslims" on his Facebook account. He was sentenced to three years in prison, but fled the country when he was released on appeal. 

According to the Egyptian Constitution, Islam is the official religion, and Sharia law is the primary source of the country's laws. 

In August, the Ministries of Religious Endowment and Culture announced an initiative to promote the spread of Islam, combat atheism, and stop the spread of Muslim extremism. 

According to Dar Al-Ifta, the Egyptian government's special department for religious affairs, there are 866 atheists in the country, or about .001 per cent of the population.