An Egyptian court affirmed the death sentences on seven defendants convicted for their part in producing the anti-Islamic film, “The Innocence of Muslims.”
The seven defendants were named by Egyptian news site AhramOnline.
“The seven convicted Coptic expatriates were: Maurice Sadiq Gerges, founder of a U.S.-based Coptic association; Morkos Aziz, a U.S.-based television presenter; Fekry Abdul-Messih, a U.S.-based doctor; Nabil Adib, media coordinator for another U.S.-based association; Nahid Metwally, an Australia-based doctor; Egyptian-born Copt Mark Baccil Youssef (charged with producing the film); and Nader Farid, a commerce graduate,” AhramOnline said.
American pastor Terry Jones’ sentence was also upheld, but the judge commuted Jones’ sentence to five years in prison.
Islam analyst and writer Theodore Shoebat, son of former Palestinian terrorist turned analyst and peace activist Walid Shoebat, says legally, the action was symbolic, as the sentence will only take effect if the defendants return to Egypt. Shoebat adds, however, that the sentencing process illustrates what is happening to Egypt’s legal system.
“The sentence does reveal how Egypt has become an official Shariah state,” Shoebat said.
Shoebat explained though the sentences aren’t likely to be enforced, the Egyptian courts have a political and a religious motive for sentencing expatriates.
“I believe the Muslim world wants the rest of the world to prosecute all the enemies of Islam,” Shoebat said, a process he fears could take root in America.
“What I fear is national courts in America and other Western nations becoming universal, and forcing people from sovereign nations to be tried by an international court,” Shoebat said.
In a column on the slow implementation of Shariah in America, Shoebat reveals the issue that is being manipulated to achieve the purpose.
“It is not the Muslims in America who will bring the Shariah code of Islam into American courts, but the left,” Shoebat writes. “They demand that criticizing Islam should be made punishable under the courts, and thus attack the First Amendment under the pretense of hate speech.”
The initial trial leading to the conviction of the Coptic expatriates took place in November, two months following the Sept. 11 attacks on the U. S. Embassy in Cairo and the diplomatic facility in Benghazi.
An expatriate Egyptian Coptic Christian who asked not to be named has family still living in Egypt. He says his family members observed the process and are amazed at the relatively little attention the court case has received in the media worldwide.
“There was a Cairo tribunal headed by Sheikh Ahmad Al Tayeb, the Grand Sheikh of Al Azhar University. He has upheld and approved the death sentences passed on the seven Egyptian Coptic Christians in absentia,” the expatriate said.
“The court believed anyone involved in the movie that ridiculed the Prophet Mohammed must be punished,” the expatriate said. “All the accused, including the director of the movie, are currently living in the United States.”
The expatriate says the Egyptian court was simply acting on their belief regarding anyone who criticizes Muhammad.
“Sheikh Ahmad Al Tayeb said Egyptian courts must hand out the maximum punishment, meaning execution, for any blasphemy against Islam,” the expatriate said.
Even though the court acted under the provision of the blasphemy laws in Shariah Law, the expatriate says his/her sources in Egypt claim there was also a political motive.
“Sheikh Ahmad Al Tayeb, now the state’s top Islamic scholar, is rumored to have approved the verdicts at the behest of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi,” the expatriate said. “Or, Morsi could have faced a backlash from Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood demanding he be replaced. So, bowing to the alleged threats, Sheikh Ahmad Al Tayeb confirmed the sentences.
“The issue received little publicity and passed almost unnoticed given the current turmoil in Egypt with demands for Morsi to stand down and the reenactment of the 1971 constitution,” the expatriate said.
He says that the defendants know they will face certain death if they ever return to Egypt, so their return is highly unlikely. He wonders, however, that so little has been said about the fact that Egypt is the only country to take such action.
“One point everyone has missed is why Egypt is the only Muslim country to hold trials over the movie,” he said. “No offense occurred on Egyptian soil, and Egyptian laws and jurisdiction do not extend outside Egypt and certainly not to the United States. Furthermore, Obama has said nothing.
“The answer for the silence is that this is a clever ploy by the Muslim Brotherhood government to suppress and intimidate the Copts,” he proposed. “The message is very clear that even abroad, Copts will be held accountable subject to Egyptian law.”
The expatriate has another concern – the safety of the families of Copts abroad.
“What’s worse is that the Egyptian government can harm the defendants or any Copt abroad by directly targeting their families,” the expatriate said. “This tactic is decades old and has divided the Coptic communities abroad.”