CAIRO (Reuters) - Three Egyptians accused of killing a man while he was walking with his fiancée were sentenced to 15 years in jail on Tuesday for forming an Islamist vigilante group to enforce their hard-line ideas, the state news agency MENA reported.
In a separate case, Egypt’s public prosecutor referred three Muslims to a criminal court after they were accused of insulting Christianity and desecrating a copy of the Bible.
Ahmed Hassan Eid was stabbed as he walked with his fiancée in the port city of Suez, known as a bastion of hard-line Islamism. He died later of his wounds.
The case made front page news, exacerbating the fears of many Egyptians that fundamentalists emboldened by the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power will seek to impose their strict customs on society.
The accused had formed a group calling for “the propagation of virtue and the elimination of vice,” the public prosecutor said in the document referring them to trial. The three denied the charge, MENA reported.
The men had confronted Eid while he was sitting in a public park with his fiancée. He was stabbed in his upper thigh in what the prosecutor described as an act of premeditated murder.
In a separate case, the prosecutor referred the head of AlOmma TV Channel and his son, the channel’s director, to a criminal court after accusing them of ripping up and burning a copy of the Bible during demonstrations in front of the U.S. embassy earlier this month against a crude, low-budget anti-Islam film made in the United States.
The editor of al-Tahrir newspaper was also referred to the court for publishing an interview with the two men in which they used “phrases insulting to Christianity”, MENA reported.
The first hearing will be held in Cairo on Sunday.
On Monday, MENA reported that an Egyptian arrested on suspicion of posting an anti-Islam video online would stand trial next Wednesday on charges of insulting religions.
Computer science graduate Alber Saber, 27, who comes from a Coptic Christian family, was arrested at his Cairo home on September 13. Prosecutors have accused Alber of running Facebook pages calling for atheism, insulting Islam and Christianity and questioning religious beliefs.
The cases have raised questions about how Egypt under Islamist President Mohamed Mursi, elected this year after the 2011 popular uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak, will deal with issues such as freedom of expression and radical Islamism. (Reporting by Patrick Werr; Editing by Janet Lawrence)