State prosecutors on Sunday ordered the release of Hassan Shehata and 11 alleged members of a Shia organization arrested last June on charges of "disdaining religion" by promoting Shia doctrine in Egypt, a majority Sunni-Muslim country. The interior ministry failed to carry out the release order, however, and instead remanded the accused men into custody for the seventh time.
According to Shia doctrine, Ali bin Abi Taleb should have become the leader of the rapidly expanding Muslim community after the death of Prophet Mohamed in the seventh century. Shia doctrine therefore denies the legitimacy of the prophet’s immediate successors. It further claims that an "awaited messiah" will eventually appear, bringing with him the true version of the Koran.
Shehata was also charged with engaging in certain "religious rites" in violation of Sunni-Islamic doctrine and of prohibiting the performance of prayers behind imams that do not descend from the prophet’s family.
"All the charges are false," said defense lawyer Ramadan el-Arabi. "My clients belong to a Sufi order that has nothing to do with Shia doctrine."
Translated from the Arabic Edition.