CAIRO: A media report suggesting that Cairo’s Supreme Constitutional Court rejected a case requesting that Christian converts to Islam who converted back to Christianity be considered apostates is inaccurate, according to a rights group involved in the original case.
In February 2008 the Supreme Administrative Court allowed 12 Christian converts to Islam to “re-convert back to Christianity.
Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) explained to Daily News Egypt that in 2007 a case was filed by a conservative Muslim lawyer against the plaintiffs before the public prosecution office requesting that “apostasy charges be pressed against them.
The lawyer then filed a case before the Supreme Constitutional Court claiming that the same issue of re-conversion to Christianity was being considered both by the administrative courts and the public prosecution office, and asked the Supreme Constitutional Court to decide whether the matter was administrative or criminal.
The challenge was later withdrawn.
Al-Masry Al-Youm suggested in a news story published yesterday that the Supreme Constitutional Court has issued a verdict in the case eliminating the “apostasy label.
“The SCC decision on Sunday simply recognized the withdrawal of a claim of jurisdictional conflict. The decision is of no substantive consequence, Bahgat said.
But Naguib Gobrail, lawyer for some of the plaintiffs in the case and head of the Egyptian Union of Human Rights Organization maintains that “Sunday’s ruling is a legal verdict. It emphasizes that Abdel Meguid Al Anany [the lawyer who filed the 2007 case] has no right/place to make this plea (since it is constitutional). The verdict overrules his plea and confirms the right of re-converts to Christianity.
He told Daily News Egypt that he had spoken to the Al-Masry Al-Youm journalist who wrote Monday’s story.
Gobrial insisted that the paper was correct in presenting the Supreme Constitutional Court ruling as a verdict concerning the substance of the case rather than merely a recognition that the original claim had been withrawn.
However, Bahgat thinks the debate about the Supreme Constitutional Court’s decision is irrelevant at the moment.
“The more important issue here is the Ministry of Interior’s unlawful failure to implement February 2008’s final decision by the Supreme Administrative Court which recognized the right of Christian converts to Islam who re-convert to Christianity to have their Christian religious affiliation recognized in public records and identity cards, he continued. -Additional reporting by Heba El-Sherif.