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Egypt Sentences Christian Teens to Prison for Insulting Islam

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An Egyptian court sentenced three Coptic Christian teenagers to five years in prison on Thursday for mocking Islam in a video. A fourth Christian teen was condemned to a juvenile detention center for an indefinite period of time.

The video was shot on a mobile phone in January 2015 and depicts the four teens allegedly mocking Muslim prayers.

Defense lawyer Maher Naquib insisted the youths had not created the video to insult Islam but to instead mock the beheadings carried out by ISIS jihadists.

However, all four Christians, as well as their teacher who was also featured in the video, have been sentenced to prison.

"The judge didn't show any mercy. He handed down the maximum punishment," Naguib told Agency French Press.

The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms said in a statement that after the video's release the teens were imprisoned for 45 days and endured "ill-treatment."

The independent rights group warned the Egyptian court's of "contempt of religion" accusation is a strategy to target "religious minorities."

It is not uncommon for religious minorities in Egypt to face the "contempt of Islam" charge. Egyptian Initiation for Personal Rights told AFP that 42 people were tried over the same accusation between 2011 and 2013. Twenty-seven of them were convicted.

Coptic Christians make up only 10 percent of Egypt's majority Muslim population and have experienced relentless persecution, violence, and church attacks.

A Christian man was sentenced to six years of prison for insulting Islam on his Facebook page in 2014. That same year a Christian women was jailed after being accused of evangelizing and allegedly insulting Islam.

The recent judgment of the four Christian teens comes only a month after writer Fatima Naoot was sentenced to three years imprisonment after criticizing the religion's slaughter of animals.

Thursday's sentencing is one more display of Egypt's continual persecution of religious minorities and those who challenge Islam's beliefs.

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