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Egyptian court sentences Americans to death for film

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
November 29th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

An Egyptian court has tried and convicted, in absentia, seven Coptic Christians and one American pastor for the crime of blasphemy and sentenced them to death. The charges stem from the release of an anti-Islamic film which depicts the prophet Mohammed in an unflattering light.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - In addition to the Egyptian Coptic Christians convicted for their role in producing an anti-Islamic film, a Florida-based pastor has also been sentenced to die for promoting the film on his website.

The film behind the charges, "Innocence of Muslims" was a low budget production fraught with controversy. The actors in the film say they were recorded in front of a blue screen and thought they were participating in a different film altogether, and unrelated to Islam.

The film, once released, turned out to be of extremely low quality with poor acting and an outrageous script. The film depicted the Islamic prophet Mohammed as a bloodthirsty fool.

The producer of the film, Mark Basseley Youssef, 55, is an American-Egyptian who was convicted on charges of fraud before he made the film and has served time in prison. He was banned from using the internet, yet violated his probation by doing so. He is now serving a year in prison for violating his probation.

Despite the harsh sentences, it is unlikely that any of the individuals will face Egyptian justice. The United States will not under any circumstances extradite the individuals named in the suit and Egyptian courts have no real jurisdiction over Americans. The only exception would be if one of the convicted ever traveled to Egypt.

Egypt routinely tries defendants in absentia if they cannot be brought to trial. In those cases, death sentences are common. However, the sentences must be upheld by the country's religious authority. A verdict from that authority is expected on January 29.

Critics of the verdict say that it reflects poorly on Islam and on Egypt's new government. It essentially proves Youssef's initial charge, that Islam, as a civic entity, is intolerant.

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