Egyptian Lies

Cover-up charge over Egypt police torture

By Christina Lamb

Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights

Egypt, Indefinite Detention and Systematic Torture: the Forgotten Victims - Amnesty International

Religious persecution continues in Egypt - Maranatha Christian Journal

Secretary-general of Egyptian Human Rights Organization detained [19 Sept 1998]- Arabic News

The Christian Coptic Orthodox Church Of Egypt - The Coptic Network

THE Egyptian government has launched an international publicity offensive in the wake of disclosures in The Telegraph last month about a brutal police crackdown on Christians in southern Egypt. Actions include paying for full- page newspaper advertisements in cash and a lobbying campaign on the Internet.

Reports of the incident, in which more than 1,200 Coptic Christians were arrested and subjected to tortures that included being manacled in the crucifixion position while electric shocks were applied to their genitals, caused outrage.

Some American newspapers called for a review of the country's £1.3 billion aid programme to Egypt, while in Canada Coptic Christians held demonstrations outside parliament.

Officials called the reports "hearsay". But critics say that rather than investigate, Egypt is attempting a cover-up. Cairo fears that the bad publicity will damage the moderate image conveyed by President Hosni Mubarak and deter tourism, one of its most important sources of income.

In an extensive report on the crackdown in the village of Al-Sohag in Upper Egypt, the independent Egyptian Human Rights Organisation accused the security forces of the random arrest and intimidation of hundreds of people, hostage taking and the use of torture to extract confessions.

Those who had spoken out, such as Bishop Anba Wissa, the community's spiritual leader who collected depositions and photographs of those who had been raped and tortured, and the human rights lawyer, Moris Sadek, have been arrested and charged with "disturbing the national peace and fermenting sectarianism". Believing his community will be left even more vulnerable if he is behind bars, Bishop Wissa has now allowed the State Information Service to retract his statements.

The Egyptian government has responded through an organisation purporting to represent the Christians of Egypt by taking out full-page advertisements in newspapers around the world, which representatives have been paying for in cash.

And a web-site has been set up on the Internet with a form letter with which The Telegraph has been flooded. Strangely, while the letter alleges that the report was motivated by anti-Semitism, the site says that the newspaper is owned by the Hollinger Group, which also owns the Israeli newspaper the Jerusalem Post.

Helmy Guirghuis, the chairman of the British Coptic Federation, said: "The people who have been writing in are not genuine Copts. They are stooges of the Egyptian government. Many have official positions and have been heavily leant on."

The newspaper advertisments, which claim that Muslims and Christians live in harmony in Egypt, angered the Coptic community, many of whom are forced to live outside Egypt because of the persecution they faced. Copts make up more than eight per cent of Egypt's 60 million population and trace their heritage back to the first century but the government refuses to recognise them as an official minority.

Their history is not taught in schools, and Coptic communities need special presidential licences to build a church or even install a lavatory in existing places of worship. In the past three years the Egyptian media has reported the killing of 40 Christians by Muslim extremists for failing to pay protection money.

Copts writing to The Telegraph from Egypt said they were frightened to give their names, but pleaded for the international community to heed their concerns. The International Coptic Federation took out its own full-page advertisment in the New York Times, calling on the United Nations to investigate the situation of Coptic Christians in Egypt.

Mounir Bishay, the president of Christian Copts of California, said: "Rather than playing ostrich, it would have been more credible for the Egyptian government if they had ordered an investigation of these incidents instead of outright denying they ever happened."

Amir Moussa, the Egyptian Foreign Minister, cancelled a planned visit to London this week during which he was scheduled to give a lecture at Chatham House. He claimed that an engagement had cropped up suddenly in the Middle East.

© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 1998. Terms & Conditions of reading.


Back to ISRAEL REPORT Nov/Dec 1998 {} Return to Home Page

Recommended Links
 
 
Powered By:NuvioTemplates.com