Egypt’s general prosecutor has issued an arrest warrant for both American pastor Terry Jones and the the creator of the controversial “Innocence of Muslims” YouTube video that is being blamed, at least in part, for riots across the Muslim world.
According to various media reports, Jones did not play a role in creating the film, but had a hand in promoting it.
The prosecutor’s office said in a statement that the accused– which also includes six Coptic Christians– face charges of harming national unity, insulting and publicly attacking Islam, and spreading false information. The office said they could face the death penalty if convicted, but no date for the trial is set.
According to the Associated Press the case is “largely symbolic” because all eight of the accused are all believed to be outside of Egypt and unlikely to return to the country to face the charges. Rather, they say, the prosecutor’s decision to take legal appears to be aimed at absorbing some of the public anger over the amateur film.
However, since the 2011 revolution in Egypt, the longtime ally’s relationship with the United States has grown increasingly strained. President Obama went so far as to say last week that the United States doesn’t necessarily consider the newly-elected Egyptian government an ally, but we don’t consider them an enemy either (the White House later backtracked and said “ally” is a legal term).
Either way, the fact that the Egyptian government has now issued an arrest warrant for an American citizen for promoting free speech is unlikely to endear it to many.
Ultraconservative Salafi lawyer Mamdouh Ismail of Egypt praised the prosecutor’s decision, saying: “Now these are legal measures instead of angry reactions, whose consequences are undetermined.”
He added that this should also be a “deterrent for them and anyone else” who may consider committing a similar offense.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
(H/T: Weasel Zippers)