CAIRO, (Reuters) – Egyptian rights groups on Wednesday demanded the release of a Coptic Christian arrested on suspicion of posting an anti-Islam video online that ignited Muslim protests around the globe.
Police grabbed computer science graduate Alber Saber from his Cairo home last week after neighbours accused him of uploading sections of the film “Innocence of Muslims”, rights activists said.
The neighbours also accused Saber, 27, of making a new movie that mocks all religions. He was jailed for 15 days pending investigations.
Clips from “Innocence of Muslims” were posted on various parts of the Internet weeks before violent protests erupted in Egypt and several other Muslim-majority countries last week.
The crude film made in California portrayed the Prophet Mohammad as a womaniser, thug and child molester. Angry Muslim crowds have stormed U.S. embassies including in Egypt and Libya, where the U.S. envoy and three other Americans were killed.
Neighbours of Saber interviewed by a human rights lawyer looking into the case, Rawda Ahmad, said Saber was among the first people to upload the film but the accusation could not immediately be verified.
Saber’s mother, Kariman Ghali, denied her son had done anything of the kind. She said she called police to her home in the poor area of al-Marak after thugs attacked it.
“The thugs were hitting my son who they accused of insulting Islam,” she said. “I called the police to protect me but instead they took him away from me, saying there were complaints filed against him and they needed him.”
She said the attackers had kicked her out of her home and she had not been able to stay in one place for more than two days for fear of being found and harmed.
Members of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) said police had no warrant from the public prosecutor for Saber’s arrest and had beaten him up during interrogation.
Security officials have refused to talk publicly about the case, but a judicial source said the police had acted on the instructions of prosecutors.
Besides arresting Saber, Egyptian prosecutors have also brought criminal charges against seven Egyptian Copts living abroad and against a Florida pastor, Terry Jones, who expressed support for the film.
Many Copts worry about the rise to power of Islamists since the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak last year and fret about any action that could stoke tensions with their Muslim compatriots.
The Coptic church in Egypt has condemned the film and the Copts who they say financed it.
Church officials were unwilling to comment on Saber’s case because of the sensitivity of the issue but one, speaking on condition of anonymity, said his arrest was unjustified.
“I find it strange and unfair that Christians get jailed for posting the anti-Islamic video on the Internet, while the Muslim sheikhs who put the video on their Islamic channels and ignited Muslim anger are left untouched,” he said.
Several Egyptian activists filed a lawsuit this week against sheikh Khaled Abdel Allah for showing parts of “Innocence of Muslims” during a talk show on Islamic satellite channel al-Nas.