An Egyptian court on Thursday ordered the release of two Coptic Christian children accused of insulting Islam, a source in the prosecutor’s office said.
He told AFP that prosecutor Abdul Maguid Mahmoud took the decision because the accused, aged 9 and 10, are minors, but the source did not specify if the charges were dropped.
Police arrested the children earlier this week after a complaint from Beni Sewif residents in southern Egypt for insulting Islam by allegedly urinating on a paper containing verses of the Koran, a judicial official said on Wednesday.
Nabil Naji Rizq, 10, and Mina Nadi Faraj, 9, were to have been held and questioned for a week at a juvenile facility.
A Coptic activist and lawyer said President Mohammed Mursi had intervened to have the two young Christians freed.
“I submitted a request to President Mursi which his Coptic aide, Samir Morcos, helped to deliver to him, and the president gave instructions for the prosecutor to release the two children,” said Naguib Guebrail.
He said Mursi had ruled that their detention was in violation of international conventions on children’s rights that have been signed by Egypt.
Mursi’s spokesman was not immediately available for comment.
It was the first such accusation against children in Egypt, where a Coptic teacher was last month convicted to six years in prison for insulting the Prophet Mohammed and the country’s Islamist president on Facebook.
The trial of another Copt for posting excerpts from an anti-Islam film, the “Innocence of Muslims,” on the Internet will resume on Oct. 17.
Egypt’s Copts fear that the low-budget film produced by a Copt from the United States would lead to further persecution at home. Christians make up six to 10 percent of Egypt’s 82 million population.