An Egyptian Christian, Bishoy Kameel Garas, has been declared “innocent” after spending more than half of his six-year sentence in jail. Bishoy was jailed in September 2012 for alleged defamation of Islam, as well as Egypt’s then President Mohammad Morsi and a Muslim sheikh’s sister. The charges all related to a fake Facebook page opened in his name.
Bishoy was convicted despite the fact that he had posted warnings on his own Facebook page about the fake account and alerted cyber police whose subsequent investigation reports attested to his innocence. As is common in cases of people accused of blasphemy against Islam, the court was besieged by mobs demanding his punishment and even accusing his defense lawyers of blasphemy for defending him.
Justice has been slow coming for Bishoy. On 25 July last year Cairo’s senior court quashed his prison sentence, although he was not actually released from prison until 9 October. However, it was not until 13 March this year that the high court finally declared him innocent.
Although Bishoy has now been released, as we reported last week, there is a growing trend of blasphemy accusations against Christians in Egypt. Even if those accused are acquitted, their lives are likely to be irreparably damaged, as Bishoy’s case illustrates. He lost his job as a teacher shortly after his trial began in 2012, his father who was poor had to pay legal fees he could not afford and Bishoy has spent more than three years of his life in prison for which he is extremely unlikely to receive any compensation. However, of even greater concern to those acquitted of blasphemy is the risk of physical attack from Islamists who refuse to accept the court’s verdict and try to take the law into their own hands.