Coptic Christian billionaire taken to court accused of ‘insulting Islam’
REPORTING FROM CAIRO — Christian billionaire Naguib Sawiris is scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 14 after he was charged Monday with “blasphemy and insulting Islam” by Cairo prosecutors, state newspaper Al Ahram quoted judiciary sources as saying on its website.
The telecommunications mogul, who also heads the secular Free Egyptians political party, is charged with posting a photograph on his Twitter account last June that depicted a bearded Mickey Mouse and a veiled MInnie Mouse. A group of Islamist lawyers, including ultraconservative Mamdouh Ismail, filed a lawsuit immediately after the cartoon was circulated.
Despite his formal apology, Sawiris’ stunt was seen as mockery of Islam by this overwhelmingly Muslim country. Various religious groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood and ultraconservative Salafis, led a nationwide campaign to boycott products and services offered by Sawiris’ companies.
Sawiris has had an increasingly tense relationship with Islamists. Differences over religion and politics further sharpened after President Hosni Mubarak was toppled in February and Sawiris, chairman of Orascom Telecom and a major shareholder in cellphone service provider Mobinil, helped fund and establish the liberal Free Egyptians Party.