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Missing – TML Exclusive

ICC News

Egyptian convert from Islam to Christianity and his wife have been missing. They were challenging Egyptian authorities to allow them change their identity card so that their new Christian identity is officially recognized.

By Rachelle Kliger

Thursday, October 18, 2007 Egypt (The Media Line)-Two Egyptian converts to Christianity engaged in a legal battle against the Egyptian authorities have gone missing, sparking fears for their lives.

Muhammad Hegazi and his pregnant wife Zeinab have both been missing since Monday, and they are not answering repeated calls to their cell phone, their attorney told The Media Line.

The lawyer, Ramsis Raouf A-Naggar, said it was unclear who was responsible for their disappearance. It could be a number of groups, including radical Muslims, terrorists or even the Egyptian police, A-Naggar said.

“He hadn’t left his home in a month,” the lawyer said, citing death threats.

After changing his faith from Islam to Christianity, Hegazi filed suit against the Egyptian government for refusing to recognize his new religion in his national identification card.

As well as switching religion, Muhammad wanted to change his name to Bechoy and Zeinab wanted her name registered as Christine.

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The couple also wants their unborn child, due in January, to be registered as a Christian. This would enable the child to study in Christian religious classes, marry in a church and practice the faith without facing harassment.

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According to Open Doors, an organization representing persecuted Christians, conversion from one faith to another is permitted in Egypt , but the Interior Ministry refuses to issue new ID cards for Muslims who have converted to Christianity and these converts face persecution. As a result, the organization says many of these converts are forced into hiding.

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A-Naggar said one of Hegazi’s houses had been broken into and trashed. The police have so far taken a written statement, but A-Naggar said they were not taking action on the grounds that they did not have enough information.

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