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Egyptian author Youssef Ziedan faces a five-year jail term after being accused of insulting Christianity in his prize-winning novel Azazeel (Beelzebub). Set in 5th-century Egypt, Alexandria and northern Syria, Ziedan’s novel tells the story of an Egyptian monk who witnesses debates over doctrine between early Christians. The book was an Egyptian bestseller and last year won the International Prize for Arabic Fiction but the Coptic church had denounced it as offensive for its violent portrait of Coptic church father St Cyril. Now, a group of Egyptian and foreign Copts are using an Egyptian law — which prohibits insults against Islam, Christianity and Judaism — to prosecute Ziedan. In the past, the author has described his novel as “not against Christianity but against violence, especially violence in the name of the sacred”.