Mahran, editor of the controversial weekly newspaper Al-Nabaa, was sentenced to three years in prison and fined 200 Egyptian pounds (about US$50) on September 16, 2001, for allegedly undermining public security, publishing scandalous photos, insulting religion, and causing civil turmoil.
The charges stemmed from a June 17, 2001, Al-Nabaa cover story alleging that a Coptic Christian monk had sex with several women in a Coptic monastery in southern Egypt and filmed the encounters to blackmail the women. The piece was accompanied by provocative photos. The Al-Nabaa article led to demonstrations and riots among Egypt’s Coptic minority, who viewed the story as insulting to their religion.
Coptic Church officials vehemently denied that sexual acts had occurred in the monastery and pointed out that the monk in question had been defrocked five years earlier, a fact omitted from Al-Nabaa’s account.
Mahran was to begin his sentence on October 1, 2001, but he allegedly suffered a heart attack the day before. He was taken, under guard, to a private heart trauma center in the capital, Cairo, where he remained hospitalized under guard at the end of 2002.