Richard Spencer @ The Telegraph:
When Alber Saber’s mother called police to protect him from a mob baying for his blood, something odd happened: they arrested him. They then threw him in prison, encouraged his cellmates to attack him, and finally took him to court where he was jailed for three months.
Mr Saber’s alleged offence was all the more significant in light of the new constitution – being voted on by millions of Egyptians on Saturday – that is at the heart of Egypt’s political crisis.
The mob in his Cairo suburb accused him of atheism and disrespect of the Prophet Mohammed, and demanded he be killed; a neighbour had alleged he had posted to his Facebook page the now notorious Islam-mocking video that triggered protests across the world in September.
His mother, Kariman Ghali, cries frequently as she describes visiting him in prison the day after the mob surrounded their apartment block.
“He had blood all over his T-shirt,” said Mrs Ghali, who claims her son was put in a wing reserved for dangerous inmates. “The policeman told the prisoners, ‘This guy insulted the Prophet, I want to see what you can do with him.’ Someone stabbed him with a razor.”
He was then taken to another cell where the inmates were urged to see if they could outdo the first set.
Some 250,000 police and soldiers were deployed across Egypt on Saturday to protect voting in the second half of the referendum on the draft constitution, which was drawn up by an Islamist-dominated panel from which Christians and liberals had withdrawn in protest.
Among the many charges levelled against the constitution by both human rights groups, secular and liberal activists, and the Coptic Christian minority, is that its defence of basic freedoms is heavily curtailed when it comes to religion and politics.
Specifically, it will forbid any law that would permit anything deemed insulting either of people or of religion, the Prophet Mohammed or the other figures considered by Islam to be God’s messengers. Such a clause could clearly have a chilling effect on free thinking and speech.
Demonstrations continued right to the eve of Saturday’s vote, which was expected to lead to a clear but not convincing victory both for the constitution – drafted by an overwhelmingly Islamist assembly – and for President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood backers, who have pushed it through.
In the first phase of voting in the split referendum last weekend, 57 per cent backed the document, albeit with a low turnout, and a similar result was expected on Saturday.
Yet many are alarmed that it will further enshrine an intolerance that is already on the rise.
“Things are definitely worse than under the old regime,” said Gamal Eid, of the Arabic Human Rights Initiative. “It is because of the Islamists having power – their sense that they have won.”