CAIRO — An Egyptian court sentenced four Coptic Christian teenagers to up to five years in prison on Thursday after finding them guilty of insulting Islam, the latest of a series of high-profile blasphemy convictions that have drawn sharp criticism of Egypt’s judicial system.
The teenagers were convicted in Minya, an arid province south of Cairo, where they had been accused of filming a 32-second video in which they mocked the Muslim mode of prayer, said their lawyer, Maher Naguib.
A prominent TV presenter, a poet and a novelist have received jail sentences in recent months for blasphemy or offending public morals, in cases that seem to be at odds with the image of Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who styles himself as a bulwark against extremism.
The police initiated the prosecution of the Coptic teenagers after a Muslim classmate discovered the video. Three of the teenagers were sentenced to five years in prison, while the fourth, who is still under 18, is to be detained at a juvenile detention center.
The poet Fatma Naoot in 2008. Ms. Naoot was given a three-year sentence in January for a Facebook post that criticized the slaughter of animals for the Muslim feast Eid al-Adha. Credit Hamed Mossad/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
The teenagers did not attend Thursday’s hearing, and their lawyer said they would appeal the decision. “Their parents have sent them to uncles and aunts outside of Minya,” Mr. Naguib said. “They feared for their safety. They are all terrified and crying now.”
The Egyptian justice system has been under scrutiny over the investigation into the death of Giulio Regeni, an Italian student whose mutilated body was discovered on a roadside in early February. His body had extensive bruising and cigarette burns, signs of torture that are frequently associated with the Egyptian security forces.