Four Egyptian teenagers have reportedly been sent to prison for insulting Islam. An court in Egypt's Minya governorate found the Coptic Christian teens guilty of blasphemy, and sentenced them to five years in prison on Feb. 25.
The teenagers, aged between 15 and 17, allegedly made a 32-second video that mocked Muslim prayers, according to the teens’ lawyer, reports The New York Times.
The video reportedly shows one student pretending to recite Muslim prayers, while another laughs next to him. Another student allegedly pretends to behead someone in the video.
The video was reportedly filmed by the teens’ teacher, who is also a Coptic Christian. The teacher was also arrested on blasphemy charges.
After a Muslim peer of the students discovered the video, Egyptian police prosecuted them on blasphemy charges.
The four teens reportedly were not present at their trial, and they intend to appeal the decision.
“Their parents have sent them to their uncles and aunts outside of Minya. They feared for their safety. They are all terrified and crying now,” said the teens’ attorney.
The sentencing of the teens is part of a larger trend of blasphemy charges in Egypt. Coptic Christians, who constitute about 10 percent of Egypt’s population, are particularly targeted for alleged blasphemy against Islam.
Mina Thabet, a Coptic Christian activist for the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, expressed her disdain for the decision.
“They are some kids who decided to have fun in a private place,” Thabet told Fox News.
“They use some words that are used in Muslim prayers, but they are in no way being disrespectful to Islam. And even if they were, they should have the right to free speech -- but in Egypt we have this law,” said Thabet.
The Egyptian penal code criminalizes “insulting a heavenly religion or a sect following it.”
Despite suggestions from Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi to discourage radical Islam in the country, Egypt has been increasingly infringing on citizens’ freedom of expression.