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Arrests and accusations

"Arrests and accusations" Continued...

Issue: "All's fair at the fair," Aug. 25, 2007

Both local and international human-rights groups are beginning to document and publicize Egypt's alarming turn toward extremism. The Freedom House gave Egypt civil-liberties and political-rights ratings of fours and fives (with seven representing the worst possible rating) in the late 1970s and 1980s. From 1991 onward Egypt's ratings have been primarily sixes.

Egypt's once-vibrant Jewish community has dwindled over the decades into virtual nonexistence, and now Egypt's Coptic community-a blanket term that includes Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestants in the faith-are bearing the brunt of the nation's Islamist rulings. "The justice system has failed to make major prosecutions of any of the culprits who have victimized Coptic minorities in the past years, and oftentimes those who commit crimes against Copts are not brought to justice," Roderick said.

Habib says this latest wave of Christian persecution is worsening each day and is part of a larger effort by Islamists to claim Egypt as their own: "You walk the streets of Cairo and you see people who are covered in Islamic dress-totally different from the secular Egypt we knew 40 to 50 years ago. The attitude of the people now is fundamentally Wahabi Islamic. They believe that apostates must be killed in accordance with Islamic Shariah law," Habib said. "The Copts have no future because of this persecution. Ten percent have already emigrated." Saudi Arabia, he adds, has been a major source of this extremism, preying on Egypt's poor.

A report by Amnesty International this year criticizes Egypt's practice of illegal detention and claims the nation has become an international center for torture. The report states that close to "18,000 people continue to be held without charge or trial under orders issued by the Interior Ministry."

"It's a real shame to a country that's supposed to be a member of the United Nations and a signatory of the Charter of Human Rights," Habib said. He says Egypt needs to remove religious affiliation from ID cards and separate state and religion.

Roderick says the United States needs to exert more politic pressure on Egypt to enact necessary changes in its justice system. "There should be some more scrutiny involved in terms of our assistance to Egypt as an ally and the question of whether a real friend is truly accountable for preserving the civil rights of their minorities," Roderick said.

Much is at stake for Copts in the coming months. MECA's Egypt branch recently sued President Hosni Mubarak and several other government officials for failing to compensate the Coptic victims of the al-Kosheh Muslim riots in 2000 that killed 21 Christians. The ruling is expected on Sept. 6.

Now Fawzy and Ezzat await a decision on their own fate as well. "We just continue to pray that their lawyers will be a good advocate for them and that their case will be considered justly," Roderick said.

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