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Article Egypt: Court of Cassation Rejects Appeal Petition of Christian Convicted of the Crime of 'Contempt of Religion'

On March 6, 2024, the Criminal Chamber of the Court of Cassation, Egypt’s highest review court on questions of law, rejected a petition of appeal submitted by Marco Gergis Saleeb, a Christian who was accused of committing the offense of “contempt of religion.”

Facts of the Case

On June 14, 2021, the Egyptian authorities arrested Saleeb, accusing him of possessing images “considered offensive to the Islamic religion” on his mobile phone. After detaining him for nearly a month, the State Security Prosecution questioned Saleeb and then charged him with insulting Islam by posting comments critical of Islamic principles and rituals on social media and possessing images offensive to the Islamic faith. Saleeb denied having contempt for religions and publishing pictures on the internet, but the prosecution referred the file of the case to the criminal court.

Verdicts of the Lower Courts

During Saleeb’s trial, his defense lawyers argued that the arrest and search procedures were invalid and that the police investigations were inadequate. Accordingly, the defense lawyers requested that the court dismiss all charges. However, on January 29, 2022, the First Instance Criminal Court of Misdemeanors in Cairo convicted Saleeb of defaming the Islamic faith and sentenced him to five years of imprisonment.

Saleeb appealed the verdict of the First Instance Court before the Criminal Chamber of the Cairo Court of Appeal, but on September 12, 2022, the appeals court upheld the decision of the lower court.

Applicable Law in the Case

The criminal court in this case applied article 98(f) of Law No. 58 of 1937 on the Egyptian Penal Code, which stipulates that “any person who exploits religion to promote, verbally, in writing, or by any other means, extremist ideas with the intention of provoking sedition or defaming or showing contempt for [Islam, Christianity, or Judaism] or sects belonging to them, or harming national unity” is punishable by six months to five years in prison or a fine of 500 to 1,000 Egyptian pounds (about US$10.50 to $21).

The Egyptian Court of Cassation

The Egyptian Court of Cassation is divided into chambers on the basis of subject matter in order to enhance specialization. It includes chambers for criminal, civil, and commercial cases. (Law No. 46 of 1972, art. 3.)

The Court of Cassation reviews only petitions of appeal that address questions of law or miscarriages of justice. The Court of Cassation does not reexamine the facts of a case and is restricted in its review to ensuring the correct interpretation and application of the law by the lower criminal courts. (Law No. 150 of 1950 on Code of Criminal Procedure, as amended, art. 446.)

Decisions of the Court of Cassation are final. If the Court of Cassation rules to uphold the final verdict issued by the lower court against the defendant, the defendant has no legal right to appeal the ruling. (Law No. 57 of 1959, art. 47.)

George Sadek, Law Library of Congress
April 18, 2024

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Chicago citation style:

Sadek, George. Egypt: Court of Cassation Rejects Appeal Petition of Christian Convicted of the Crime of 'Contempt of Religion'. 2024. Web Page. https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2024-04-17/egypt-court-of-cassation-rejects-appeal-petition-of-christian-convicted-of-the-crime-of-contempt-of-religion/.

APA citation style:

Sadek, G. (2024) Egypt: Court of Cassation Rejects Appeal Petition of Christian Convicted of the Crime of 'Contempt of Religion'. [Web Page] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2024-04-17/egypt-court-of-cassation-rejects-appeal-petition-of-christian-convicted-of-the-crime-of-contempt-of-religion/.

MLA citation style:

Sadek, George. Egypt: Court of Cassation Rejects Appeal Petition of Christian Convicted of the Crime of 'Contempt of Religion'. 2024. Web Page. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2024-04-17/egypt-court-of-cassation-rejects-appeal-petition-of-christian-convicted-of-the-crime-of-contempt-of-religion/>.