Commission Asks Clinton To Address Religious Freedom
with Egyptian President Mubarak

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Friday wrote to
President Clinton to raise the issue of ongoing violations of the Coptic
Christian community's religious freedom rights. Egyptian President Hosni
Mubarak arrives in the United States on a state visit today. The text of the
letter follows:

March 24, 2000

The Honorable William J. Clinton
President of the United States Of America
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500

Re: Treatment of Coptic Christians by Egyptian Government

Dear Mr. President,

Next week President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt will return to the United States
on a state visit. On behalf of the U.S. Commission On International
Religious Freedom, I urge you to raise with him his government's ongoing
violations of certain religious freedom rights of the Coptic Christian
community, an issue raised by the Commission in our letter dated June 24,
1999, written to you on the eve of President Mubarak's last visit to
Washington.

We are particularly concerned about the Egyptian government's response to
repeated violence against Copts in the village of Al-Kosheh, 300 miles south
of Cairo, in Sohag governate. Local police, in the course of investigating
the murder of two Copts, arrested and tortured or abused hundreds of Copts
from the village.

Not surprisingly, this cycle of violence against the largest religious
minority in Egypt recently reignited in the same village of Al-Kosheh. On
January 1-3, 2000, crowds of Muslims attacked their Coptic neighbors in
their homes, shops and fields, killing 21 Copts and firebombing homes and
businesses. One Muslim was also killed. Local police reportedly withdrew
from the scene immediately prior to the attack.

The Egyptian government has offered to provide token compensation to the
victims in Al-Kosheh. However, the Commission fears that local prosecutors
will again resort to blaming the victims and that justice will once again
languish. Our Government's reiteration to Mr. Mubarak that promotion of
religious freedom is critical to Egyptian-American relations can be a step
toward mitigating that possibility.

Egypt remains a home in which six million members of the Coptic Orthodox
Church experience serious and pervasive religious discrimination. According
to the State Department's most recent Human Rights Report released February
25, Christians who proselytize are subject to arrest. Permits to build
Christian churches can only be issued by President Mubarak, and obtaining
permits to repair churches can be difficult and delayed interminably. Yet
mosques and the salaries of their imams are paid for out of public funds.

Therefore, we hope and urge that President's Mubarak's visit provides an
occasion for a serious discussion of religious freedom in Egypt.

Respectfully,
Rabbi David Saperstein
Chair

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The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom was created by the
International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 to give independent
recommendations to the executive branch and the Congress.

Rabbi David Saperstein, Chair * Dean Michael K. Young, Vice Chair * Hon.
Elliott Abrams * Latta Al-Marayati, M.D. * Hon. John R. Bolton * Firuz
Kazernzadeh * Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick * Nina Shea * Justice Charles
Z. Smith * Ambassador Robert Seiple, Ex-Officio * Steven T. McFarland,
Executive Director

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WASHINGTON, DC 20002
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