Los Angeles -- The Church of Scientology on Wednesday denounced the detention of two of its members in Egypt on charges of religious contempt as a gross human rights violation and urged Cairo to free the pair.
Egyptian authorities arrested a Palestinian woman and her Israeli husband belonging to the church on December 24 for allegedly trying to damage the principles of Islam and Christianity by the spread of a new religious doctrine.
Mahmud Massarwa, 28, and his wife Wafaa Ahmed, 26, are also suspected of spreading the doctrine "with the aim of sparking riots."
"The charge of contempt of religion against the two Scientologists is false and devoid of facts," the Los Angeles-based church said in a statement.
"Their prolonged detention, based solely on suspicion and rumour, is a gross violation of human rights," the church said calling for the immediate release of the pair and denying that Scientology was in any way opposed to Islam.
The church said the couple had been in Egypt to establish an office to promote two books by church founder L. Ron Hubbard and that the works had been cleared by the Egyptian censors.
Prosecutors in Cairo said the pair entered Egypt as representatives of an Italian publishing firm to spread Scientology.
The Church of Scientology was founded in the United States in 1954 by late science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard and counts several US celebrities, including actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta, among its followers.