CAIRO: The two members of Egyptian branch of Canada-based Middle East Christian Association (Meca) were arrested for “doing too much, Meca’s director in Canada, Nader Fawzy told Daily News Egypt.
President of Meca’s Egyptian branch, Adel Fawzy Faltas Hanna, and one of its members, Peter Ezzat, were arrested Wednesday afternoon, suspected of posting anti-Islamic messages on “a Christian website, said a police official speaking to the Associated Press. No charges have been pressed as of yet.
Friday’s Al-Masry Al-Youm reported that the arrests were based on a report filed by two Muslim lawyers, “in which they expressed their resentment of the organization’s activity, which defiles Islam and does harm to the Quran and [the] hadiths on its website.
However, according to Fawzy, who spoke to Daily News Egypt by telephone from Toronto, the real reason for the arrests of the two men was the involvement in recent weeks of Meca’s Egyptian branch in a number of cases potentially damaging to the government.
Meca had recently initiated legal action against the government demanding damages for the massacre of 21 Copts in the village of Kosheh in Upper Egypt in 2000. Moreover, Hanna and Ezzat had spoken to Mohamed Higazy, the man who converted from Islam to Christianity and filed a case to have the change recognized officially on his identity cards.
Furthermore, less than 24 hours before their arrest on Wednesday afternoon, Hanna and Ezzat had offered legal advice to the family of the deceased Nasser Sadiq Gadallah, after he was allegedly thrown from his balcony by police officers.
“It’s not one single thing, said Fawzy. “The organization had been doing too much recently. Adel told me he and Peter were being followed in the weeks before they talked to Higazy.
Police raided the homes of Hanna and Ezzat Wednesday, confiscating computers, CDs, books, and broadcasting devices. Among the belongings confiscated were several copies of the book “Mudtahadoun (Persecuted), and episodes of the radio serial “Al-Haramlek, which “personifies and does harm to the personality of the Prophet Mohamed (PBUH) and his wife Aisha, Al-Masry Al-Youm reported.
A spokesman at the Ministry of Interior, Major Khaled, told Daily News Egypt that, “Adel wrote on the net subjects.talking in a bad way about Prophet Mohamed, but could not elaborate.
No known evidence of internet postings insulting the Prophet Mohamed has yet been made public.
“They have no evidence, said Fawzy. “They say it is on our website – well, where is it then? Let them show us where [these insults] are.
Hafez Abu Saeda, director of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR), will be attending a hearing on Saturday with state security to appeal for the men’s release.
“They have committed no crime, Abu Saeda told Daily News Egypt. “If they posted on the internet, they committed no crime; they are allowed to express themselves.
Owning materials that insult the Prophet Mohamed or Islam does not constitute a crime either, Abu Saeda said. According to Article 98 of the penal code, which outlines “the crime of contempt for religion, the men are only guilty if they were using the materials for “broadcasting and disseminating ideas insulting to religion.
He conceded that if that was what the men were doing, then they would be charged and convicted for insulting religion, and would receive at least five years imprisonment.
Fawzy confirmed that the Egyptian branch of Meca reports on political and religious news and developments in Egypt to the headquarters in Canada. The interview Hanna and Ezzat conducted with Mohamed Higazy about his conversion, for example, was sent to Canada.
But he insisted that this was a matter of human rights, not religion, and neither Hanna nor Ezzat were involved in Higazy’s decision to convert, or the conversion process, which could be considered ‘proselytizing,’ or ‘sedition’ (inciting discontent or rebellion) under Egyptian law.
“Higazy came to them looking for help, Fawzy said. “Before this [became news] we knew nothing about him. Everybody is against him. We are a Human Rights Organization, we had to help.
According to Naguib Guebrail, one of the lawyers representing the two men, the evidence against Ezzat is particularly weak. Guebrail, who is meeting with the public prosecutor’s assistant today, is hopeful of Ezzat’s release in the coming days. Hanna, on the other hand, will remain in custody for at least 15 days, from last Wednesday.
“Peter is a child, Guebrail told Daily News Egypt. “He doesn’t know anything about this matter. His mother and his family are extremely upset.
Guebrail accuses Egyptian law of uneven treatment when it comes to Muslims and Christians who are accused of insulting the other’s religion, citing the example of Mohamed Emara and Abu Islam Ahmed, who are alleged to have incited hatred against Christians in respective publications.
“I have made personal complaints about these men, but nothing has happened, he said.
Fawzy added that, more than anything, Hanna and Ezzat are not the kind of people who would insult other religions.
“Adel never speaks about religion, he only talks about political issues.
“And Mr. Ezzat, well he never speaks at all. We even joke about it, he said.
A third man, Adeeb Ramses, was reported on Friday to have been arrested along with Hanna and Ezzat, but Fawzy does not know him, and confirmed to Daily News Egypt that he is not a member of Meca.