CAIRO -- Accused of defaming Islam and the sanctity of all religions, Egyptian activist Albert Saber stood in court on Wednesday in his first trial session as he denied all charges.
Saber, a 27-year-old blogger and activist who comes from a Coptic Christian family, was arrested at his home in Cairo two weeks ago without a warrant, according to his lawyer.
“Albert’s arrest in itself was illegal, he was taken without proper documentation and warrant,” said Karim Abdelrady, Saber’s lawyer.
“His court date was set very quickly, faster than police officers accused of killing protesters during protests over the past two years," he said. "These kinds of cases don’t take time because the state wants to show that they are moving quickly against those who defame religion.”
Saber’s arrest came after protests erupted in Egypt and across the Middle East against “Innocence of Muslims,” an anti-Islam video produced in the United States that portrays Muslims and the prophet Muhammad as thugs and child molesters.
Kariman Masiha, Saber’s mother, said the prosecutor informed her and lawyers that a group of citizens filed a case accusing Saber of sharing the anti-Islamic video on his personal social networking sites.
Abdelrady, the attorney, said the prosecution found no evidence linking Saber to the video. However, the young man was accused of previously posting online videos of himself as he spoke negatively of religion. The prosecution decided to put Saber, a secular activist, on trial for blaspheming all monolithic religions, the lawyer said.
Abdelrady said the prosecution held Wednesday's session while refusing to allow the defendant's lawyers to review the evidence. If found guilty, Saber could face up to six years in prison.
"They are doing this to target him as a minority; he is not just accused of defaming Islam, but all religions," Abdelrady said. "The prosecution asked him very personal questions during interrogation, they wondered how often he prays at his church and how devoted he is to his religion."
The case was postponed to Oct. 17 after the attorneys requested a chance to review the case, Abdelrady added. “We used to spend the night in Tahrir during the revolution together," Saber's mother told The Times. "We would spend days with no showers, no food and we slept in the street for the chance to say ‘bread, freedom, and dignity.’ Is this the dignity that we asked for? Is this what we get as Egyptians, strife between Muslims and Christians?”
Masiha said that shortly after her son's arrest their home was raided without a search warrant, and her son's computer, CDs and some of their personal belongings were confiscated.
“The government has become worse; they are pitting us Egyptians against each other," she said. "I just hope we will end these ‘Christian and Muslim’ labels and stand by each other and against injustice just like we did in the revolution.”
-- Reem Abdellatif in Cairo
Photo: Egyptian Coptic Christian activist Albert Saber looks on from behind bars during his first trial session on charges of insulting religion in Cairo on Wednesday. Credit: Khaled Elfiqi / European Pressphoto Agency