Egyptian Islamic Lawyers Urge Death Sentence For Convert
ISTANBUL — In the latest hearing of a Muslim-born Egyptian’s effort to officially convert to Christianity, opposing lawyers advocated he be convicted of “apostasy,” or leaving Islam, and sentenced to death.
More than 20 Islamic lawyers attended the hearing on Sunday (Feb. 22) in Maher Ahmad El-Mo’otahssem Bellah El-Gohary’s case to obtain identification papers with Christianity designated as his religious affiliation. Two lawyers led the charge, Ahmed Dia El-Din and Abdel Al-Migid El-Anani.
“[El-Din] started to talk about the Quran being in a higher position than the Bible,” one of El-Gohary’s lawyers, Said Fayez, told Compass. “[El-Din said] people can move to a higher religion but not down, so people cannot move away from Islam because it is highest in rank.”
Memos submitted by opposing lawyers asserted that cases such as El-Gohary’s form part of a U.S. Zionist attack on Islam in Egypt, that Christianity is an inferior religion to Islam and that Copts protect and defend converts from Islam at their own peril.
“We received 150 pages from them that talked about religion,” said Fayez. “We are not in a position to talk about religion, we are only talking about the law.”
El-Gohary was not present at the hearing, as attendance would put him at extreme personal risk. He had planned to obtain papers authorizing attorney Nabil Ghobreyal to act as his proxy representation in court, but staff members at the registry office swore at and beat him, lawyers said.
Judge Hamdy Yasin was forced to adjourn the case until March 28 because El-Gohary did not obtain the necessary proxy representation documents.
“I am now in a position where I can’t do anything else,” El-Gohary, who has been in hiding, told Compass. “I have to go [to court] despite the danger. I believe God will protect me. It’s a very hard decision, but I have to go.”
Copts and Christian converts have to face such systemic prejudice daily in the battle for their rights, he said.
“Our rights in Egypt, as Christians or converts, are less than the rights of animals,” El-Gohary said. “We are deprived of social and civil rights, deprived of our inheritance and left to the fundamentalists to be killed. Nobody bothers to investigate or care about us.”