Trial of Egyptian Muslim Cleric Accused of Burning Holy Bible Resumes
By Mary Abdelmassih
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(AINA) -- The trial of an Egyptian Muslim cleric accused of tearing and burning the Holy Bible convened for the third time on Sunday, October 21 at Nasr City Misdemeanour Court. On trial were cleric Ahmed Abdallah, known as Abu-Islam, owner of al-Omma TV Channel, his son Islam and journalist Hani Mohammed Yasin, editor of al-Tahrir newspaper. They were charged with contempt of religion by the state prosecutor. Abu-Islam is charged with tearing and burning a copy the Holy Bible during demonstrations in front of the U.S. embassy on 9/11 (AINA 9-14-2012).

Dozens of supporters of Abu-Islam disrupted the trial, ripped and burnt images of Jesus and the late Pope Shenouda III, and trod on them with their feet. A number of Christian Copts attempted to remove a banner on one of their cars which read "O Beloved [Abu-Islam] prophet of Allah." According to eyewitnesses the confrontations were about to turn violent when security forces took control of the situation.

Abu-Islam's supporters attempted to attack two Coptic lawyers, Dr Naguib Gabriel and Sherif Ramzy. "Court security guards intervened and hid us in their office for two hours," said Gabriel, "and then drove us away in one of their cars from the court's back entrance."

During the previous court session on October 15, Abu-Islam's supporters assaulted Coptic lawyers and activists with planks of wood, injuring attorneys Dr. Naguib Gabriel and Mr. Bebawi, as well as activist Rami Kamel of the Maspero Coptic Youth Federation.

Inside the court, defense lawyers for the three defendants were belligerently confrontational with the prosecution. Abu Islam's lawyers withdrew from the case and applied for a change of venue, in protest of the lack of response from the court to their requests, specially their request to summon Bishop Pachomius, the acting Coptic Pope to attend court, "to ask him whether the 'ripped book' is the Holy Bible and whether it is used for worship in Egypt."

The defense also requested the appearance of the editor in chief of al-Tahrir newspaper, to ask him how his reporter recorded without permission an interview with the defendant Abu-Islam, in which he criticized the Holy Bible and Copts. Defense also asked for a technical committee to investigate the tapes and CDs provided by claimants and Abu-Islam. The prosecutor described these requests as unrelated to the case, and asked the defense to reread the records of investigations where Abu-Islam's statements matched his words on the videos outside the U.S. embassy (video) and denounced all requests for the acting Pope to appear in court.

Mamdouh Ramzi, one of the Coptic lawyers who joined the case as civil rights claimant, argued during the court session that the accused committed a great crime by tearing the Holy Bible, and incited the Muslim community to attack Copts, which threatens their lives, stressing that the Holy Bible is integral and there is no difference between the Holy Bible in Egypt and USA, otherwise the translated Koran would also not be considered sacred. Abu-Islam has argued that he only tore the English translation of the Bible used by pastor Terry Jones and not the Arabic Bible used by Copts in Egypt.

Abu-Islam is one of the most controversial Islamist figures gaining his reputation from insulting the Coptic Church, Copts and Christianity, by throwing doubts on the authenticity of the Holy Bible. "There is no such thing as a Bible on Earth," he said recently on ON-TV Channel.

His al-Omma TV Channel does not transmit from Egypt but through a UK based company "in order not to embarrass the Egyptian government with the material I transmit, besides there will be a confrontation between me and the Coptic Church with all its ill-manners and its transgression against the Prophet Mohammad time after time, also the Copts might make a similar channel. This way I have my freedom!" he told Al-Watan newspaper in a recorded interview (video).

The case was adjourned to November 4, to decide on the request of the defense team to change the venue.

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