In a letter, seen by BosNewsLife, Ricciardone said he would raise with Egyptian officials the cases of Adel Fawzy Faltas and Peter Ezzat Mounir, (also known as Peter Ezzat) of the Middle East Christian Association (MECA), a Canadian-based human-rights group promoting Christian equality in the Middle East.
"We will certainly cite the cases of Mr. Faltas and Mr. Mounir, among many others, in upcoming [annual human and religious rights] reports," he wrote. "We are also engaging the Egyptian government and civil society to advance the cause of religious freedom in Egypt…," the ambassador added.
Faltas, 61, and Ezzat, 23, who have been involved in several human rights cases, were arrested by Egypt’s feared State Security Investigations (SSI) on August 8, while investigating the death of a Coptic Christian worker from Cairo who was allegedly thrown off his balcony, after refusing to pay police officers extortion money.
The MECA employees took pictures of the crime scene and filmed statements from family and
friends who witnessed the death of Nasser Sediq Gadallah, apparently inciting the rage of SSI officials who wanted to report the death as a suicide.
In addition Faltas had conducted a controversial Internet interview with Mohammed Hegazy, who made a public bid to have his conversion to Christianity legally recognized. Top Egyptian religious scholars reportedly called for the convert’s death.
MECA said in a statement obtained by BosNewsLife that the second hearing of the case is scheduled on September 6. "In the previous hearing the court was adjourned to give the defense lawyers time to study the case files," MECA added.
News of the latest developments come shortly after on Saturday, September 1, an appeal by 12 Egyptian converts to Islam who wish to return to the Coptic Christian Church was adjourned to November 17. In April, a lower court ruled that reversion to Christianity by the 12 converts would amount to apostasy under Islamic law and constitute a "manipulation of Islam and Muslims."
Christians in Egypt who convert to Islam often do so to circumvent the Coptic Church’s strict rules for divorce, or to marry a Muslim. In addition Christian women and girls have been kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam, several church sources and rights groups have said.
Despite the difficulties, MECA said it will take up the case of at least one Christian woman, Feeby Saleeb, also known as Nahed Mahmoud Mitwally, "one of the most famous out of many converts to Christianity from Islam," in Egypt.
"Mrs. Mitwally requested our Association to take her case to the Egyptian Courts to confirm her name [and religion] change [in official documents and her passport] from Nahed Mitwally to Feeby Saleeb." and extract new official documents under this name leading to extracting a new passport under the name this name. Mrs. Feeby Saleeb, also demands from the Egyptian regime her indemnity after many years of serving her beloved country, Egypt.
"We raise this case before the Egyptian courts acknowledging the integrity of the Egyptian judiciary system. [However] if for any reason our delegates do not receive their rights, we will then refer our case to Dutch courts [in the Netherlands] where Mrs. Feeby Saleeb currently resides."
Copts comprise between six to 10 percent of Egypt’s 76 million people and are the largest Christian community in the Middle East, according to estimates. Human rights groups and church leaders claim that a recent wave of state-sponsored persecution of Christians underscores the growing influence of Muslim militants in Egypt’s society, despite pledges from officials to crackdown on Islamic extremism. (With BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos and reporting from Egypt).
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