Outspoken Copt says stripping him of nationality illegal

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By Marwa Al-A’asar

CAIRO: Outspoken Coptic lawyer Morris Sadek described an Administrative Court decision stripping him of Egyptian citizenship as being legally null and void.

“A court cannot strip a citizen of his nationality. It can only recommend this procedure to the Cabinet which is the only entity authorized to take the final decision…based on the citizenship law,” Sadek told Daily News Egypt Sunday evening in an email exchange, a few hours after the ruling was issued.

The State Council’s Administrative Court had ordered the interior ministry, representing the Cabinet, to strip Sadek of his Egyptian citizenship because of his constant incitement against Egypt in what constitutes “high treason.”

Known for his extreme political views, Sadek, who immigrated with his family to the US in 1999, is the president of the National American Coptic Assembly (NACA). He is currently a lawyer in Washington, DC.

The recent verdict cannot be appealed but it can be contested before a higher court.

Law 26 of 1975 on citizenship dictates that the Cabinet may issue a substantiated decree stripping a citizen of his Egyptian nationality in specific cases.

One of these cases is when a citizen resides abroad and a court ruling is issued condemning him over a crime related to state security committed from his place of residence.

The court also ordered that Sadek’s membership in the Lawyers’ Syndicate be revoked.

“The decision to call off my syndicate membership is void as I did not commit any violations in my law practice,” he argued. “The right [legal] procedure in this case is that the syndicate sends a recommendation to the appeals court to take such a decision.”

On Oct. 21, 2010, the Islamic Lawyers Association (ILA) filed a complaint before the Prosecutor General against “the extremist” Sadek for “committing crimes … that would have an impact on the security of the state.” The association enclosed 75 documents to support its claims. The complaint was referred to the court in the same month.

The ILA also accused Sadek of insulting Prophet Mohamed.

“This is untrue…The only claim I have is that I refuse the imposition of the Islamic Sharia law on Copts in Egypt,” he added.

“I criticized the government for not protecting Christians in Egypt against violence [incited by Islamists] who burned churches and destroyed Copts’ houses,” Sadek said.

Sadek is known for his controversial statements, allegedly calling on Israel to occupy Egypt.

In May 2010, he sent a letter to Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman asking him to convince the United Nations to impose an international mandate over Egypt due to what he described as the “oppression” Egyptian Copts have been exposed to.

“It is obvious that the Copts in Egypt have been under [tough] conditions since … the 1952 [Free Officers’ coup],” according to the NACA’s official website.

“Because of the extremely oppressive conditions in Egypt … the Copts found it futile to say anything or to do anything, the only option available to them was patience,” another online statement read.

The citizenship law further states that Egyptian citizenship can be revoked if a citizen works for a foreign state or government which is in a state of war with Egypt, or with whom diplomatic relations have been severed, and his continued employment for such a state or government constitutes harm to Egypt’s military, diplomatic or economic security, or effect any other national interests.

A citizen can also be legally stripped of his nationality if, at any time, he is seen to embrace Zionism.

However Sadek denied that he urged Israel to occupy Egypt.

“Israel and Egypt have diplomatic ties… [and] economic relations as the two had entered into a peace treaty. So Israel is not an enemy to Egypt,” he argued, adding that there is “no single Egyptian law preventing a citizen from contacting a country and using its friendly relationship with Egypt to call for equality between citizens.”

Egyptian human rights advocates were quick to criticize the verdict.

“When a citizen commits a crime or a violation, they should be interrogated first and faced with these charges and penalized if proven guilty, not stripped of citizenship,” said lawyer and director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information Gamal Eid.

“Even though I disagree with Sadek’s extremist views, opening the door for political ‘hisba’ is very dangerous as it gives people the right to take others to court without having any authority to do so,” Eid added.

Hisba is a doctrine that entitles any Muslim to take legal action against anyone considered harmful to Islam. The concept is sometimes used in politically-motivated lawsuits.

“Hisba practically allows anybody to play the role of a representative of society and demand the punishment of another for any wrongful doing that in some cases has nothing to do with religion,” Eid explained.

Sadek told DNE that he had never officially been interrogated or confronted with any charges.

Director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) Hossam Bahgat expressed deep concerns over the court verdict.

“I prefer not to comment on the verdict before the reasoning is released. But [in general], we are disturbed over stripping a citizen of his citizenship for [adopting] extreme political views,” Bahgat told DNE.

Sadek previously said in press statements that “Egypt was the rightful home of Copts… not the Arab descendants who now live there,” asking Muslims to leave the country.

The Coptic Church has recurrently denounced Sadek’s statements.

In June 2010, the Supreme Administrative Court upheld a previous ruling ordering the Ministry of Interior to propose to the Cabinet on a case-by-case basis that Egyptian men married to Israeli women be stripped of their citizenship.

Yet the court said officials should take into account whether a man is married to an Israeli Arab or a Jew when making its decision to revoke citizenship.

As with the case of Sadek, human rights advocates condemned the ruling based on a lawsuit filed one year earlier by vocal Islamist lawyer Nabeeh El-Wahsh.


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