A top human rights group is fighting to save Egyptian Christian teenagers sentenced to prison for making a video mocking ISIS.
The video reportedly shows the four teenagers kneeling to pray. One says Muslim prayers while two laugh at him and another makes a beheading hand motion on another person. The video was filmed after ISIS released its 2015 video where ISIS militants in Libya reportedly beheaded 21 Christians. Human Rights Watch says the teens intended the video to mock ISIS and should not be imprisoned, but the Egyptian government convicted them of blasphemy in February.
HRW said that Egypt sentenced Mueller Edward, 17; Bassem Hanna, 16; and Alber Ashraf, 16, to the maximum penalty of 5 years in prison while Clinton Yousef, 17, was referred to a juvenile facility.
“They are just teenagers,” Edward’s father said in a statement. “They were psychologically troubled by the killings of Coptic Christians in Libya and went for entertainment. They didn’t deliberately intend any offense…. How can you try someone for mocking ISIS.”
HRW said the teens are not in custody since they were released on bail. They can’t appeal unless they turn themselves in.
“These children shouldn’t face prison for expressing themselves, even with an immature joke,” Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East director for HRW, said in a statement. “The continued prosecution of blasphemy cases in Egypt goes against the government’s claim to be promoting a more inclusive vision of religion.”
The Christian teacher who filmed the video was sentenced to three years in prison for contempt of religion in a different trial.
“Mocking ISIS, or any religious group, with a childish joke is not a crime,” Houry said in a statement. “Instead of giving in to retrograde views on blasphemy, Egyptian authorities should protect freedom of expression.”
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