LUXOR, EGYPT (BosNewsLife)-- An Egyptian court has fined a Coptic teacher for "insulting Islam" and proselytizing at her primary school, adding to concerns among rights activists about the alleged growing persecution of devoted Christians in the country.
The court in the ancient southern city of Luxor ruled Tuesday, June 11, that schoolteacher Dimyana Abdel-Nour must pay a fine of 100,000 Egyptian pounds ($14,300), though she escaped prison.
Abdel-Nour was not in the courtroom for the verdict and it was not immediately clear whether she would appeal against the sentence.
She was released last month on 20,000 ($2,860) pounds bail pending further investigation.
The case began when three parents claimed their 10-year-olds complained at home, saying their teacher showed disgust when she spoke of Islam in class.
Abdel-Nour has denied the charges.
Angry Islamists protested the verdict outside the courthouse, witnesses said.
The court ruling came shortly after Romani Mourad, a Coptic Christian lawyer, was reportedly sentenced on June 1 to one year in prison in absentia and fined 10,000 pounds ($1,430) also for insulting Islam and the Koran, deemed a holy book by Muslims.
Several human-rights groups have expressed concern about "the rise in numbers of cases" of Egyptian Christians, mainly known as Copts, accused of insulting Islam.
These "strongly indicate that such cases have become a weapon for religious discrimination and oppression of religious minorities," the groups said in statements.
Criminalizing blasphemy was enshrined in Article 44 of Egypt's new Islamist-backed constitution adopted in December, and critics claim the charter fails to protect human rights.
Under Egypt's related blasphemy legislation “confinement for a period of not less than 6 months and not exceeding 5 years…shall be the penalty inflicted on whoever makes use of religion" for what it calls "propagating, either by words, in writing, or in any other means, extreme ideas for the purpose of inciting strife, ridiculing or insulting a heavenly religion or a sect following it, or damaging national unity.”
Coptic Christians. who comprise roughly 10 percent of Egypt's mainly Muslim population of 83 million people.
Representatives have complained that besides court cases, Christians also face increasingly violent attacks by Islamists since the overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.
Since April, at least four Christians and two Muslims were reportedly killed in sectarian clashes that broke out in the the town of El Khusus, north of Cairo.
Additionally, two people were killed and at least 90 injured when assailants attacked mourners outside St Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo where a funeral service was being held for the four Copts killed in El Khusus, Christians said at the time.
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is 'Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals' since 2004).