Alexandrian Converts & Supporters: All but 5 Released
All detainees beaten and tortured, some raped and one reportedly killed

12th November 2003

Seventeen of the 22 Christian converts and their supporters who were
arrested in Alexandria in late October have been granted bail; the five
remaining in prison are still suffering degradation and abuse.

Between 21 and 24 October twenty-two converts to Christianity and those who
had helped them were arrested in Alexandria (see Barnabas Fund’s news item
of 24 October ). 

Whilst in custody they were all severely beaten, tortured and some were raped.
Seventeen have now been released on bail with cases pending against them,
while five others are still being detained.

Among them, Mariam Girgis Makar (one of the first to be arrested) is being
held in the same quarters as prostitutes – in an attempt to add to her
degradation. An official informed her that had her crime been of a nature
such as prostitution she would already have been released, but since she
was a convert she would never get out. She has had great pressure placed on
her to return to Islam and to have a tattoo of a cross on her arm removed;
such tattoos are very common amongst Egyptian Christians. Mariam has also
suffered serious sexual abuse at the hands of the police.

After having been released and then rearrested once, Mariam’s husband,
Yusuf Samuel Makari Suliman, is now one of those finally out of prison. He
has revealed that on various occasions he was beaten and tortured. Once he
was beaten in front of his wife by eight men wielding lengths of plastic
cord in an attempt to force them both to return to Islam. Yusuf’s former
Muslim name was Muhammad Ahmad, a very common name. Police have scoured
records of offenders in the area with the same name in order to find
outstanding charges that they can pin against him.

The detention of the five remaining in prison comes up for review on 20
November when they will either be released or have their period of custody
extended. Those released are being kept under close surveillance by the
police in the hope of finding out the identities of yet more converts.

One of the 22 arrested reportedly died in police custody. Isam Abdul Fathr
had high blood sugar levels and bowel problems before his arrest, and was
clearly not well enough to survive interrogation and torture. Isam was a
Muslim and had been implicated with helping to obtain false papers for the
converts. All of the 22 have been indicted on similar charges related to
falsifying official documents.

A Christian who converts to Islam in Egypt can receive new ID papers with a
new adopted Muslim name within 24 hours. However, it is impossible for a
Muslim who converts to Christianity to change their name to a Christian one
at all. The arrests of the converts and their supporters in Alexandria have
drawn attention to this example of discrimination by officialdom and
Egyptian Christians pray that the government will now rectify the
situation. The Christian Converts of Egypt took the brave and unusual step
of issuing a Declaration to this extent on 26 October, available on
Barnabas Fund’s website

Those arrested in Alexandria were all charged with falsifying official
identity cards and papers. Whilst Egypt has no law against apostasy from
Islam, in practice converts are actively punished by the police in this 90%
Muslim country and often face imprisonment, beatings and torture on various
pretexts in order to try to force them to return to Islam. As converts to
Christianity cannot have their conversion officially recognised, female
converts will be prohibited from marrying Christian men, as it is also
illegal under Egyptian law for a Muslim woman to marry a Christian man. Any
children will be treated as Muslims, and educated as such at school, and
converts will have to be buried as Muslims. There are also a myriad of
other matters making it virtually impossible for Christians to follow their
faith safely and authentically whilst they retain a Muslim name and ID. As
a result many converts are forced into a position where their only option
is to apply for any official papers (such as passports) through the correct
channels but using an assumed Christian name, which is technically not
recognised by the state. If this is later discovered they are vulnerable to
a charge of falsifying official documents which can be used as a way of
punishing them for their apostasy. Barnabas Fund is currently engaged in a
major international campaign calling upon Muslim religious leaders to
condemn the harsh treatment of converts. Please contact Barnabas Fund or
visit the Apostasy Campaign pages on our website for further details.

* Pray for the immediate release of Mariam and the four others who are
still in prison.

* Pray that the Egyptian government will address the injustices in its ID
regulations and recognise Muslims who wish to convert to Christianity.

The Barnabas Fund’s e-mail news service provides our supporters 
with short urgent news briefs and prayer requests for suffering 
Christians around the world.  

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