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20 March 2008

Egypt Detains Christian Bookshop Worker

eb008c2a84c61dd12ff39f469420e806.jpgCAIRO EGYPT (BosNewsLife)-- A Christian bookshop employee in Egypt faced possible police interrogation Monday, March 17, after

being detained over the weekend by security forces who also confiscated books, compact discs, and issues of a Christian newspaper, a religious rights group said. 

Shenouda Armia Bakhait was arrested Saturday, March 15, after undercover police "stormed" the Nile Christian Book Shop in Cairo, reported Advocates For The Persecuted, a US-based nonprofit organization that advocates for religious minorities in the Middle East.

The leader of the group running the shop, the Egyptian Christian Youth Union (ECYU), was quoted as saying that two senior officers and eight undercover policemen "stormed" the shop at noon Saturday Cairo time. "Mr. Shenouda was interrogated for more than five hours" by a prosecutor and court president, said ECYU President David Joseph, whose Egyptian name is Nagy Atia, in a statement.

He claimed that under Egyptian law the bookstore worker should have been released immediately as no wrongdoing could apparently be established. If there was a basis for accusation, he could then be held for four days to allow time for an investigation.


However, "The interrogators...detained him only for the night, with plans to continue the interrogation the next day," he said. "They [also] requested a report from the Egyptian national security office about the activities of Mr. Shenouda and the Nile Christian Book Shop. Egyptian authorities claim they can detain Mr. Shenouda for up to 40 days without a trial under Egypt's emergency laws," Joseph was quoted as saying.

Shenouda's whereabouts were not known Monday, March 17, and Egyptian officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Jan Fletcher, executive director of Advocates For The Persecuted, said the arrest came one day after Mohammed Hegazy came into the bookstore, apparently to buy books. Hegazy is the first Egyptian Muslim convert to petition Egypt’s Administrative Court to change his religious affiliation on his national identity card.

A hearing over his petition sparked "a melee" in an Egyptian courtroom in January, the group said. Judge Muhammad Husseini reportedly denied Hegazy's request in January, ruling that it was against Islamic law for a Muslim to leave Islam.

The Nile Christian Book Shop opened in 2006 in a location that first housed a bookstore in 1890. Christians have complained of growing pressure from Islamic militants in the mainly Muslim nation

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