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Coptic Christian boys accused of 'contempt of religion' in Egypt

| Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, 9:48 p.m.

CAIRO — Two Coptic Christian boys have been put in juvenile detention after locals accused them of urinating on pages of the Islamic holy book, an Islamic cleric and prosecutors said on Wednesday, in the latest in a series of legal cases in Egypt against alleged contempt of religion.

Accusations of insulting Islam have increased in Egypt — particularly against Christians — since last month's fury over an anti-Islam film produced in the United States. Such cases occurred in the past, but the flurry to prosecute in recent weeks has raised concerns over freedom of speech and over the power of ultraconservative Islamists in the country.

The new case is a rare instance of minors being accused. The boys, ages 9 and 10, were detained on Tuesday in a southern town, to be held for 15 days while prosecutors investigate the accusations.

There have been 17 cases of alleged contempt of religion filed since the January 2011 revolution, including at least five in recent weeks, according to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.

In a rare case of prosecuting an offender of Christianity, an Islamic preacher is on trial for tearing up and burning a copy of the Bible during protests last month against the film.

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