Egyptian Author Gets 5 Years in Prison for Blasphemy
Saber authored a collection of short stories in 2011 titled Ayn Allah ("Where is God?”) after which a collective of plaintiffs lodged a complaint against him.
Amnesty International condemned the rise in blasphemy cases in Egypt, saying they were primarily used to target bloggers, media professionals and Coptic Christians.
The reaction came at the heels of the conviction of 24-year-old Christian schoolteacher Demiana Abdel Nour for defaming Islam and insulting the Prophet Muhammad.
The Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) condemned the complaint filed against Saber, calling it a deliberate restriction on art and creativity.
In their statement, the ANHRI said that they fear of the return of hisbah cases, which they consider a breach of the freedom of expression. The hisbah principle, as stated in the regulations governing Sharia (Islamic law) courts in Egypt, gives all Muslims the right to file lawsuits in cases where an exalted right of God has been violated, even if this does not directly harm them.
"Referral of art works and creativity to religious assessment is totally unacceptable and constitutes an assault on the freedom of creativity and freedom of expression," the statement read.
Saber told state-owned Al-Ahram that no religious institution, including Al-Azhar and the Church, should have a role in interfering in any literary work or impose restrictions. He insists that the collection of short stories is a work of literature that should not be measured using "religious standards," adding that he will continue to defend his right of expression inside and outside of the court.
Saber said he would appeal the ruling by the Beni Suef court and that he had contacted the Writers Union, which will hold a seminar to discuss the matter.
"Who are these institutions to evaluate works of literature?" he asked.