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Terror in the courtroom

ICC Note

When Mr. Gabrail volunteered to defend the right of Muslims to Convert to Christianity, he was insulted and faced death threat inside court room. The judges didn’t restrain the assailants. This is another example of how far freedom of religion is curtailed in Egypt , a country which is one of the biggest recipients of American aid.

By Lydia Farid

February 03,2008 Egypt (Watani)-When terrorism enters the courtroom, where can we find justice?The question was last weekend raised in a hastily-convened press conference at the headquarters of the Egyptian Union of Human Rights (EURO) to comment on the recent brawl in the State Council courtroom, where insults were levelled at Christianity and Christians, and the lawyer Naguib Gabraïl, head of EURO, was attacked.

The shoes

The three lawyers Nabih al-Wahsh, Mansour Abdel-Ghafaar and Muhammad Ragab Youssef had brought a case against the Prime Minister, the Interior Minister, the Grand Mufti and Sheikh al-Azhar for declining to apply ridda—the death sentence meted to Muslims who ‘desert’ their religion—to a Christian convert. Mr Gabraïl volunteered to act as defence lawyer. On Tuesday 22 January Mr Wahsh shouted accusations in the courtroom against the Church and Pope Shenouda III, claiming that Muslims were being secretly baptised and that hundreds of thousands of pounds were being offered to help Muslim girls travel abroad and convert to Christianity. He accused Mr Gabraïl of making use of his office, the headquarters of the EURO, to baptise Muslims. With a raised voice he exclaimed that there was no Christianity in Egypt ; only Islam, and that whoever dared say otherwise he would “beat him with my shoes”, at which he held his shoe up in the air. He then said Mr Gabraïl was an apostate and should be put to death in accordance with Islamic law.

Kill him, kill him

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When he left the courtroom Mr Gabraïl, who said he had volunteered his services as a lawyer and human rights activist rather than as a Christian, and that he never insults Islam or any other religion, was heavily guarded, surrounded by police officers. “When someone tried to hit me on the face, he related, an officer defended me and was beaten instead, but other people were shouting ‘Kill him, kill the apostate’”.

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