|President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi
Office of the President
Al Ittihadia Palace, Heliopolis
Arab Republic of Egypt
I am writing to express my deep concern about the increased use of Egypt’s blasphemy law, Article 98(f) of the penal code. Recently there has been numerous examples of how blasphemy charges are misused against religious minorities and those holding beliefs at odds with the Sunni Muslim majority in Egypt.
I want to draw your attention to the case of Mr. Bishoy Armeya Boulous, formerly known as
Mohammed Hegazy. He is a Christian convert from Islam, famous for petitioning the Egyptian government to formally recognize his conversion in 2007. On June 18, 2014, he was sentenced to 5 years in prison for inciting sectarian violence and disturbing public order under Article 176, based on accusations of filming assaults on Christians in Minya. He has appealed the verdict. The appeal is scheduled for November 11. Mr. Boulous was released on bail, but was arrested again (July 21) on five year old charges of “defaming Islam”. According to reliable sources, Mr. Boulous is being beaten and mistreated in prison. As of August 12, he is held in the National Security Prison in Tora, where he is also on hunger strike.
The harsh sentence of June 18 and the re-arrest of Mr. Boulous raise the suspicion that the real reason for the court cases and the charges against him is his conversion. The right to convert is an internationally protected human right. It is also deeply worrying that the five-year-old blasphemy charge is raised again, a charge that, according to my information, should have been time-barred after three years. Reliable sources claim that Mr. Boulous is not a run-away criminal, but is targeted solely because of his faith.
I am disappointed that so far there has been no sign of change in the use of blasphemy charges, despite the new constitution and your accession as the President of Egypt. Egypt is by its international obligations bound to respect and protect freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression without discrimination. The judiciary’s frequent and arbitrary use of the Article 98(f) seriously call into question the Egyptian government’s commitment both to its international human rights obligations and to the new constitution, guaranteeing basic freedom of belief and thought.
Therefore, I respectfully petition your immediate intervention in order to:
Ensure the safety of Mr. Boulous, that his human rights are protected and that he is not mistreated in prison.
Ensure the immediate release and acquittal of Mr. Boulous from both the charge of “inciting to sectarian violence” and the charge of “defaming Islam”, and ensure that he can freely express his faith.
Amend Article 98(f) and other laws restricting freedoms protected by the constitution and international human rights conventions.
Ensure that the Egyptian judiciary respects constitutional rights and international human rights conventions, guaranteeing freedom of religion or belief, thought and conscience and freedom of expression.
Thank you for reading and acting upon this letter.