Cairo: Egyptian prosecutors referred to trial a well-known radical Islamist who tore up an English copy of the Bible during a protest outside the US Embassy in Cairo against an anti-Islam film produced in the United States.
The case against Ahmed Mohammed Abdullah is a rare example of Egypt`s blasphemy laws often condemned by rights groups as restrictive of freedom used against someone who allegedly insulted a religion other than Islam.
Abdullah, also known as Abu Islam, was filmed during a protest outside the embassy two weeks ago as he stood before the crowd and tore an English version of the Bible.
Abdullah later told a crowd he would urinate on the book if the offense to Islam continued, a statement which was also captured in a video posted online.
Contempt towards "heavenly" religions a term usually taken to include Christianity, Islam, and Judaism is punishable by up to five years in Egypt. But lawyers and rights groups say the definition of contempt of religion is vague and has been used frequently against critics of Islam only, not other faiths.
In the wake of the anti-Islam video, many clerics and politicians in Egypt have called for an international law criminalizing contempt for religion. Egypt`s new government, headed by Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, may be under pressure to show that it is applying Egypt`s contempt law evenhandedly.
Critics say the recent moves are a retreat from freedoms gained during the uprising against Morsi`s predecessor, Hosni Mubarak. The contempt of religion laws were also used under Mubarak.
A prosecution official said Abdullah`s son and a journalist who interviewed him afterward were also referred to trial. The official spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
Abdullah is known for having put together a new Islamic TV channel that is run primarily by women veiled from head to toe, with only their eyes showing. He is a frequent guest on other television channels.
He told The Associated Press he is not guilty of contempt to religion because he targeted the book of a specific group of Christians who have offended Islam.