ICC Note: Formerly known as Mohammed Hegazy, Bishoy Armia Boulous, a Coptic Christian convert, was placed in prison after suing the Egyptian government for refusing to change his religious affiliation from Muslim to Christian on his identification card. Though Bishoy still has a final right of appeal in front of Egypt’s top judicial body, the Court of Cassation, he has faced many roadblocks, including being denied the right to meet with his lawyer. Though the Constitution in Egypt allows for freedom of belief, a local Christian leader stated that “not all provisions are enforced on the ground.”
By Barbara Baker
01/29/2015 Egypt (World Watch Monitor) – After weeks of judicial runaround, Egyptian lawyer Karam Ghobrial has managed to find and visit his client, Egypt’s most publicly-known Christian convert Mohammed Hegazy, in Cairo’s Tora Prison.
The whereabouts of Hegazy, the first Egyptian Muslim to, in 2007, fight a legal case to change his religious identity to Christian, had become a puzzling concern to his defense lawyer.
Hegazy is now appealing against a conviction by a lower Egyptian court on three misdemeanor charges, all linked to his arrest in in the city of Minya, 135 miles south of Cairo, in December 2013.
The last time Ghobrial saw Hegazy was at his Dec. 28 appeal hearing in the Misdemeanor Court in Minya.
On that day, Hegazy was acquitted on two of the charges, which overturned the initial court’s five-year jail sentence, but he was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment on the third: “filming Muslim Brotherhood demonstrations without permission and spreading false news harmful to national interests”.
In fact, Hegazy had already served more than a year in jail since his arrest, so he was immediately eligible for release, but the judge’s written verdict, expected within 40 days, is still pending.
But Hegazy still has one final right of appeal before the nation’s top judicial body, the Court of Cassation. In order to file for that appeal within the 60-day deadline, his lawyer needed Hegazy’s written power of attorney.
But from the day of the trial onward, Egyptian prison officials proceeded to block Ghobrial’s efforts to meet his client in person.
When the Dec. 28 appeal hearing concluded, court guards refused to allow Ghobrial to speak with his client, insisting that he must first get written approval from the presiding judge. When the attorney asked where Hegazy was being held, he was told he had been sent to a prison in Minya.