Two Coptic Christian children reportedly remain in custody in Egypt after a sheik told authorities they defaced a copy of the Koran.
Daily News Egypt reports that the children — identified as 10-year-old Mina Nady Farag and 9-year-old Nabil Nady Rizk — were accused by Ibrahim Mohamed, a Salafi sheikh, on Sunday of ripping two pages from the Islamic holy book and urinating on them.
The children have denied the incident and said they found the pages on a street. One of the children is illiterate, according to Ishak Ibrahim, a researcher for the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.
Mohamed reported the incident to a local priest and was dissatisfied with that man’s response, prompting him to then report it to authorities.
“There was a friendly meeting held on Monday at one of the Muslim residents’ house, sponsored by the security forces, in which Muslims and Christians met and affirmed respect for each other,” Ibrahim told Daily News Egypt.
The children were arrested despite that meeting and remain at a local juvenile detention facility. They have been charged with contempt of religion, according to Adel Ramadan of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.
“The children will likely get lighter sentences because they are under 15 years old, but will be subject to the same law that adults are charged under,” said Ramadan, who noted the rapid increase in contempt of religion cases of late.
Ramadan said there have been about 20 cases and that only two of those were against Muslims. The other cases involved Coptic Christians, he said.
“We were shocked at the office to hear about children being arrested and facing criminal charges. Pretty soon the elderly will face the same fate,” Ramadan continued. “We predict that by the end of the year, hundreds of Egyptians will face trials over contempt of religion.”