Adel Fawzy Faltas and Peter Ezzat were detained August 8 while working for the Canada-based Middle East Christians Association (MECA). They were accused by Egypt’s state security prosecutors of "threatening social peace by propagating anti-Islamic material" as well as "insulting Islam, jeopardizing state security" and preaching Christianity.

The controversy focused on a book ‘The Persecuted’ that MECA compiled from Egyptian newspaper reports and court cases involving alleged persecution of Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority, as well as other human rights activities in this mainly Muslim nation.

Faltas, 61, and Ezzat, in his 20s,  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, BosNewsLife monitored.


Observers of the court case said they were initially also charged with converting a Muslim, named as Mohamed Ahmed Hegazy, to Christianity, but this charge was later dropped because of a lack of evidence.

Promoting any other religion than Islam is considered unacceptable in Egypt, although American evangelist Andrew Palau was able to hold a major evangelistic event over the weekend, BosNewsLife learned. 

The release of the two Christian human rights activists came on the heels of that gathering and an earlier letter sent by the United States Ambassador to Egypt, Francis J. Ricciardone. In the letter, seen by BosNewsLife, he expressed concern about the detention of Faltas and Ezzat, who could face up to 15 years imprisonment.

"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.  


Speaking to reporters, Faltas suggested that while he appreciated the international pressure he "was always a free man." He said in published remarks that, "When you respect yourself and what you are doing, then you are free." He explained that the most difficult part of his ordeal was spending the first 14 days in an isolation cell, reportedly 1.75 meters in length and three-quarters of a meter in width, with no seat.

"Many times I thought that they were never going to let us go," admitted Ezzat, who works on the organization’s website. That website was apparently attacked Wednesday, November 7, by one or more hackers, BosNewsLife monitored. A message on its website showed a black page with the words: "Just to say "Meca Will Down only 4 Islam."

The words seemed in line with the pressure Ezzat said he experienced during his detention: "Each time that we went to court, they simply renewed our detention without any interrogation."

Both men made clear they want to continue their human rights activities. MECA has already been involved in several controversial cases, including on behalf of Christians whose village was reportedly destroyed in a three-day rampage in January 2000. At least 21 Copts were killed, 18 injured and several hundred homes destroyed when Muslims attacked Christians in the upper Egyptian town of el-Kosheh, investigators say. (With reporting from Egypt and BosNewsLife Research). 


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