Egypt Court Orders Block on YouTube Access

A Cairo court on Saturday ordered the government to block access to the video-sharing Web site YouTube for 30 days for carrying an anti-Islam film that set off deadly riots last year, but the ruling can be appealed and, based on precedent, may not be enforced.
Judge Hassouna Tawfiq described the video as “offensive to Islam” and to the Prophet Muhammad. The first protests against the film erupted in Cairo last September, before spreading to more than 20 countries, leaving more than 50 people dead.
The 14-minute video, said to be a trailer for a movie called “Innocence of Muslims,” portrays Muhammad as a religious fraud, a womanizer and a pedophile. It was produced in the United States by an Egyptian-born Christian who is now a United States citizen.
Egypt’s new Constitution includes a ban on insulting “religious messengers and prophets.” Broadly worded blasphemy laws also were in effect under President Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in a popular revolt two years ago.
YouTube’s parent company, Google, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Similar orders to censor pornographic Web sites have not been enforced because of the high costs associated with technical applications, although blocking YouTube may be easier.
Google last year declined requests to remove the video from the Web site, but restricted access to it in certain countries, including Egypt, Libya and Indonesia, because it said the video broke laws in those countries. At the height of the protests in September, YouTube was ordered blocked in several countries. Saudi Arabia issued an order blocking all Web sites with access to the film.
Mohammed Hamid Salim, a lawyer who filed the lawsuit in Cairo, charged that the film constituted a threat to Egypt’s security. When the video was released, protesters in Cairo scaled the American Embassy’s walls and brought down the flag.
Some liberal and secular Egyptians fear that Egypt’s new Islamist leaders will try to curb freedoms related to religion. An Egyptian court last year convicted in absentia seven Egyptian Coptic Christians and an American pastor based in Florida, sentencing them to death on charges linked to the film. The case was seen as largely symbolic because the defendants, most of whom live in the United States, were unlikely to ever face the sentence.
In a related case, a Cairo court convicted a Coptic Christian blogger who shared the film online. The blogger was sentenced to three years in prison, but was released on bail.

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