An Egyptian man held in Libya on charges of proselytising has died in prison. Ezzat Hakim Atalla was one of five Coptic Egyptians held in Libya, and reportedly suffered from diabetes and heart problems. As a result of his death, the Coptic Youth Front and the Maspero Youth Union marched to the Libyan embassy to protest Hakim Atalla’s death.
At the time of print, dozens of people stood outside the embassy protesting against the continued imprisonment of Egyptian Copts in Libya and the death of Hakim Atalla.
According to Mina Magdy El-Qess, a doctor and member of the Maspero Youth Union’s political bureau, the group had pleaded with the foreign affairs minister last week to secure the release of the prisoners.
“We asked the foreign minister to intervene but he did nothing,” Magdy El-Qess said. “All of them were tortured,” he added.
Magdy El-Qess refuted media reports that Hakim had died of natural causes, saying that even if his diabetes had been the cause of his death, denying him adequate healthcare is equivalent to torture. “Even if it was the diabetes that killed him, it is a superficial phenomenon,” he said. “Preventing someone from having the medicine he needs is torture.”
Magdy Sabry, second in command of the Maspero Youth Union media committee, said that the men arrested were not proselytising. “They are Copts who were working in Libya because the income there is better than in Egypt,” he said. “Security forces gave them bibles and pamphlets and accused them of proselytising,” he claimed.
Tony Sabry from the Maspero Youth Union said the protest is meant to be a message to the world and the Libyan government. “Religious minorities in the Middle East are being offered up to the butchers,” he said. “Especially Copts in Egypt; we are subject to genocide.”
“We also want to send a message to the Egyptian government and embassy in Libya,” Sabry said. “They let our man be killed and they let our brothers be butchered without doing anything about it,” he said, adding that the government only speaks up “when terrorists get captured in the Emirates because they are Muslim Brotherhood members.”
Over the past two months, hundreds of Egyptians in Libya have been arrested, deported, or tortured. Some face charges ranging from illegal immigration to proselytising. The foreign minister Mohamed Kamel Amr managed to secure the release of 20 Copts earlier in March who were facing charges of proselytising, yet many more remain in custody.
The Maspero Youth Union is scheduled to hold a press conference next Monday on the status of religious minorities.