Reg. No. 1084047
Editorial supervisor, Dr. Helmy Guirguis
 
Dr. Helmy Guirguis 71, the president of the UK Copts, passed away on the 31 of January, 2015 after a struggle with illness. UK Copts mourns its founder and leader. He is a leader that touched so many by his life and has been fighting for the coptic case till his last breath. The commemoration mass for his 40th day will be held on Sunday 15th of March, 2014 starting 8 AM in Saint Mary and Saint Mark Coptic Orthodox Centre of Birmingham (Lapworth) .For commiserations, please send us an email to info@copts.co.uk

Egypt Releases Jailed Christian Convert

Istanbul, May 24 (Compass Direct News) – In a surprise gesture, Egyptian authorities have released a Christian convert from Islam who had been jailed without charges under Egypt’s controversial emergency laws for the past two years.

Officials at the Wadi el-Natroun Prison handed Bahaa el-Akkad an Egyptian bill worth nearly US$9 for taxi fare late on the afternoon of April 28, telling him he was free to leave.

Within minutes, El-Akkad had gathered up his few things and flagged down a taxi outside the prison, located an hour’s drive north of Cairo. He was reunited with his wife and three children by nightfall.

No official reason was given for his release, confirmed the following day by his attorney, Athanasius William. Notification of his release was delayed for security reasons.

Just hours before his release, officers from the State Security Investigation (SSI) had reportedly told El-Akkad that he would remain in prison for another 10 years if he did not return to Islam.

According to his lawyer, the convert had responded calmly, saying, “God has brought me to this place, and He alone will let me go to my home. You cannot do anything against God.”

The previous week, the Emergency Court where William had challenged El-Akkad’s ongoing and illegal detention denied the lawyer’s latest appeal for his client.

Reluctantly, William said, he had met with El-Akkad’s wife to inform her, “There is nothing more that we can do now.”

Bahaa el-Din Ahmet Hussein El-Akkad, now 58, was arrested on April 6, 2005 after Egypt’s secret police learned he had converted to Christianity.

Formerly a devout, practicing Muslim, El-Akkad eventually managed to send a note out of prison, stating that he had “chosen the Christian faith” after years of research on Islam.

Although the convert was never informed what Egyptian law he was accused of breaking, the official interrogations indicated El-Akkad was arrested for “insulting Islam” by becoming a Christian.

Appeals and Campaigns

Over the past six months, a broad spectrum of international advocacy appeals had been mounted regarding El-Akkad’s case, including diplomatic-level inquiries spearheaded by Middle East Concern, a Christian association supporting religious freedom for churches and individual Christians in the region.

A specific judicial appeal for the Christian convert was also issued on March 21, co-signed by the International Center for the Legal Protection of Human Rights or INTERIGHTS, a London-based group, and the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, based in Cairo.

The eight-page document reviewed the handling of El-Akkad’s case, citing repeated violations of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights by Egypt’s judiciary and SSI officials. Egypt has neither signed nor ratified this 2003 charter.

“While I was in prison, my family told me thousands of people were praying for me,” El-Akkad reportedly told his lawyer after his release. “I was sure that was true, because Jesus was with me all through my ordeal.”

He found hundreds of letters and cards waiting for him when he got home, mailed over the past few months in a concerted letter-writing campaign from Christians around the world.

According to a Christian source in Cairo, El-Akkad is still “closely monitored and under threat all the time.”

Radical Islamists from Egypt’s banned but tolerated Muslim Brotherhood had threatened to kill the former Muslim for committing “apostasy” if he was released from prison.

Last October, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had declared that Islam was under “ferocious attack” and called on Muslims to “correct the wrong image and show the real face of Islam.”

Stating that Muslims had strayed from the values of tolerance, Mubarak called for a return to its principles of “forgiveness, righteousness and reform.”

According to a Reuters article about Mubarak’s October 19 speech, “It was the most detailed remark yet by the [Egyptian] president on the need to reform Islam’s jurisprudence to accommodate more moderate views.”

 

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