Egyptian Copt’s ‘Fake Facebook Page Blasphemy’ Acquittal Delayed
An Egyptian Christian, who was jailed for 38 months on unsubstantiated charges, has had his expected acquittal delayed again until February of next year, his lawyer said.
In September 2012, Bishoy Garas was sentenced to 6 years in prison for Facebook posts offending Islam, the then Egyptian President Morsi and a Muslim sheikh’s sister. However, the charges were based on posts found on a fake Facebook page opened in his name.
Garas was due to have a ruling in favor of his acquittal on November 14, but the judge delayed it until February 13, 2016, owing to “the issue’s sensitivity,” according to the lawyer, Magdy Farouk Saeed. “This is due to the sensitivity of the issue,” Saeed said, hinting that a ‘discreet’ hearing with fewer attendees may be more appropriate.
The lawyer, however, was still confident about his client’s upcoming acquittal. “The judge will rule in Bishoy’s favor. It is as good as done,” Saeed said, noting that his client was allowed to stand outside of the booth during the hearing and was also not subjected to any further questioning by the judge.
Back in 2012, according to Garas’s father, his son was stunned and upset by insults he had supposedly written on his Facebook page. “Surprised, he quickly opened his laptop and found another fake Facebook account with the same data—his name, photo, everything. There were bad pictures and insults on this fake account,” according to his father.
Garas, a primary school teacher at the time, immediately posted warnings on his real Facebook page about the fake account. He also called the Internet police to report what had happened, asking them to investigate.
When Garas was summoned the next day to the Tima police station, he assumed the chief detective there wanted to investigate the incident. As he arrived with his laptop, however, he was confronted by Sheikh Mohammed Safwat Tammam, from the ultra-conservative Salafist movement within Sunni Islam. The cleric had filed a formal complaint against the then 24-year-old Copt, accusing him of insulting the then Muslim Brotherhood President Morsi, the Islamic religion and Tammam’s sister on his Facebook page.
Despite Garas’s adamant denials, he was taken the next day to appear in court before the Tima prosecutor; a large mob of angry Muslims had gathered outside to protest against him.
Garas’ innocence was clear from early on in the case. The hacker who created the fake Facebook page was identified and his confession obtained. The local prosecutor was convinced of Garas’ innocence, the father recalled. Despite the overwhelming evidence in his favor, the presiding judge convicted him on three counts of insult and blasphemy, sentencing him to six years in prison.
When asked about his trial, Garas had this to say: “Three years and two months in jail… Yet I have done no wrong, no crime! But I thank God in all things. We are subject to the will of Him who works all things together for our good,” Bishoy told World Watch Monitor.
In the midst of this trial, Bishoy was not left without consolation. “The time I spent in prison made me draw closer to God. It was more or less a retreat time for me with Him,” said Garas. “Despite the dangerous charges levelled against me, I could see God’s hand throughout. Even fellow inmates in both the Wadi-el-Gedid and Menya prisons were kind to me. They could see that I was being unjustly treated.”
Garas also spoke about the more difficult times. “At first, I passed through a very hard time. I felt hopeless. I’d ask God why He’d do that to me. Then I’d have only a Bible for comfort. And that surely worked!” Once his innocence is formally pronounced, Garas will have to file suit in the Administrative Court in order to regain his job, a process that could take three more months, he told us.
The family is taking no chances. “Even after an expected acquittal, we’re not taking him back home just yet. For his safety, we are arranging alternative accommodations,” his father said. “We are asking everyone to lift our son in prayer,” Kameel Garas pleaded.
Source: World Watch Monitor
O Father, we do join Kameel Garas in lifting up his son Bishoy before Your throne today. Thank You for the clear work You have done in his life; that he has lived with godly integrity, integrity that has been demonstrated not only to his family and friends, but to so many in the court system. Thank You for the favor You have granted him that he looks forward to being acquitted in February. As he awaits this time, continue to uphold and encourage him. When he is released, protect him from reprisal from his enemies—Your enemies. Let Your light shine through him and be a vehicle of Your grace to guards and fellow prisoners. When they look at him and see the patience and joy You have given him in his trouble, open their eyes to see Your presence in him. In the Name of Jesus, the joy of our salvation, Amen.