Middle East

Egypt court dismisses Sawiris insulting Islam case

Naguib Sawiris (23 January 2012)
Image caption Naguib Sawiris is a leading secularist and formed a liberal political party after last year's revolution

A court in Egypt has dismissed one of the two complaints brought against a billionaire Coptic Christian tycoon which accuse him of insulting Islam.

Telecoms mogul Naguib Sawiris angered conservative Muslims in June when he tweeted cartoons of Mickey Mouse in a beard and Minnie Mouse wearing a veil.

Mr Sawiris apologised and removed the tweet, but two groups of lawyers filed separate formal complaints.

The judge dismissed the first case on Tuesday, fining the plaintiff $8 (£5).

Legal sources said the judge at Qasr al-Nil court ruled that the complaint had been made by individuals who "lack legal standing".

A different court is scheduled to rule on Saturday on the second case, which was filed by another group of lawyers, including an ultraconservative Salafist member of parliament, Mamduh Ismail.

'No disrespect'

Mr Sawiris tweeted images showing Mickey Mouse wearing a traditional Islamic robe with a full beard, and Minnie wearing a niqab - a full-face veil - with just her eyes showing. She was identifiable by her large ears and trademark pink hair ribbon.

After an angry reaction from people who said they were offended, Mr Sawiris tweeted: "I apologise for those who don't take this as a joke, I just thought it was a funny picture; no disrespect meant. I am sorry."

But tens of thousands of people joined groups on Facebook and other social media condemning him. Conservative Muslim groups also called for boycotts of Mr Sawiris's companies.

Mr Sawiris, the head of Orascom Telecom and the son of Egypt's richest man, is a champion of secularism and has spoken out against the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the country, including the increasing number of women wearing full-face veils.

After the anti-government protests that ousted President Hosni Mubarak from power last February, he founded a liberal political party, the Free Egyptians.

The party struggled to make gains in recent elections for the lower house of parliament, which were mainly a contest between the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party and the Salafist al-Nour party.

Earlier this month, the leading Egyptian actor Adel Imam was sentenced to three months in prison for insulting Islam in films and plays.

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