ICC NOTE: Bishoy Hegazy became the first person in the Middle East to persuade the state to recognize his conversion from Islam to Christianity on his official papers. Even winning his case, Hegazy remains in Egypt’s most notorious prison for blasphemy, not knowing his release date. in July 2014 he was scheduled to be released from his original sentence, but instead was transferred to Cairo’s Tora jail where his detention is renewed every 45 days. His last hearing was January 11th where he was not given an opportunity to speak with his counsel in detail. Hegazy and other cases which remain in the system raise the fears of Egyptian Christian’s as very little is required for authorities to charge the individual with blasphemy.
2/3/2016 Cairo, Egypt (International Business Times) – Some 10 years ago, journalist Bishoy Hegazy became the first person in the Middle East to persuade the state to recognise his conversion from Islam to Christianity on his official ID card. Today, he languishes inside Egypt’s notorious Tora jail, convicted of blasphemy and with no idea when he would be released.
It is a cruel irony that Hegazy’s first arrest came in December 2013, some six months after general Abdel Fattah el-Sisi overthrew Mohammed Morsi in a coup to prevent his Muslim Brotherhood government from turning Egypt into a hard line Islamist state. But five years since the Egyptian revolution, the country has witnessed a sharp regression in religious freedom. Hegazy was in El Minya, a hotspot of sectarian strife between Muslims and Christians in Upper Egypt, visiting friends in 2013. A reporter for US-based Arabic Christian channel The Way, he had his equipment with him as always when authorities raided the building where he having lunch with a friend. They arrested him but assured him that it was for his own protection.
Hegazy was, like many journalists working in Egypt, later charged with broadcasting false news and tarnishing Egypt’s reputation overseas. He was tortured overnight and taken to a prison in Fayoum, a large rural town in southern Egypt. In a six-page letter smuggled out of prison and seen by IBTimes UK, Hegazy said he was then transported between the Fayoum jail and El Minya jail, where he was originally detained, until he faced trial.
He was eventually given a five-year sentence, which was later reduced to a year. After a harrowing eight-month ordeal in prison, he was ordered for release in July 2014, but in the early hours of his release date he was taken to another prison on the outskirts of Cairo. To his surprise, he was brought before the prosecution who charged him with religious blasphemy for case dating to 2009. The court dismissed the five-years statute of limitations for this case and Hegazy was sent to Tora prison, where his temporary detention is renewed every 45 days until his case is brought before the courts again.
“I got to know him about five months into my 11-month sentence. We used to see each other practically every day for two to three months before my release. During the one-hour break we had every day, I would notice that he kept himself [to himself],” said Hany El Gamal, a cell inmate of Hegazy.