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Egypt's torture of Copts prompts warning

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  • Teresa A. Polychronis
    http://www.wnd.com/news/printer-friendly.asp?ARTICLE_ID=56942 ... FAITH UNDER FIRE Egypt s torture of Copts prompts warning Rights group asks judge to make ban
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 1 10:12 PM

      Egypt's torture of Copts prompts warning
      Rights group asks judge to make ban on deportation permanent


      Posted: August 1, 2007
      1:00 a.m. Eastern


      © 2007 WorldNetDaily.com

      A human rights organization given special consultative status by the United Nations wants a U.S. judge to make an order halting a Christian man's deportation to Egypt permanent - because of the likelihood he would be tortured.

      The request comes in the form of a court pleading from the Washington-based American Center for Law and Justice, whose European affiliate, the European Centre for Law and Justice in Strasbourg, France, has been given "special consultative status" from the United Nations.

      The groups are asking a federal court in Pennsylvania to protect the human rights of Coptic Christian Sameh Khouzam, 38, whose case has been ongoing for nearly a decade already.

      As WND reported earlier, a federal judge has ordered his deportation temporarily delayed, concluding that Egypt's diplomatic assurances it won't torture the Christian aren't reassuring, and Khouzam "most assuredly has a right not to be tortured."

      The companion centers now have filed an amicus brief with the court on Khouzam's behalf, seeking that the order be made permanent.

      "This is an important case involving basic human rights and the proper role of the U.S. government," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ and ECLJ.

      "A federal judge has temporarily put the deportation of Khouzam on hold and it is only proper that such an order be made permanent to protect him from the likelihood of torture that all too often ends in death. As a Coptic Christian, Khouzam effectively has no rights in his native Egypt and quite frankly because of his religious beliefs is certain to be denied the most basic of human rights and protections. The U.S. government repeatedly has stated its opposition to torture and should do what's right - keep Khouzam out of the hands of a government that is likely to do just that," he said.

      The brief argues that Coptic Christians in Egypt are forced to struggle for basic human rights, such as religious freedom.

      Citing the U.S. Copts Association, the brief said: "Despite international disapproval, the Egyptian government 'continues to deny Copts basic rights such as judicial and police protection from persecution, freedom of religious expression and worship, and equal opportunity employment.' As a result, millions of Coptic Christians have immigrated to Western countries to flee persecution in Egypt."

      The brief also argues for the application of the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which instructs that no state shall extradite a person to another state "where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture."

      The brief notes that a number of human rights organizations have warned against relying on diplomatic statements regarding torture, because nations that do torture most frequently deny it.

      In an Egypt's case, the government's use of torture has been described as "habitual."

      "For example, the United Nations Committee Against Torture found that Egyptian security forces' use of 'torture [is] seen to be habitual, widespread and deliberate in at least a considerable part of the country."

      "The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights monitored 263 torture cases between 2000-2006 inside police stations and detention centers. In about 79 cases, the torture was so severe that the victim's death was likely 'a direct result of torture and maltreatement,'" the organization said.

      Another 10 torture incidents were reported in just the first two months of 2007, it said.

      "Finally, the United States Department of State reported that between 2000 and 2004, 81 detainees were tortured to death inside Egyptian police stations, and that between April 2004 and July 2005, 21 detainees were tortured to death," the group said.

      Even Egypt's own National Council of Human Rights noted that Christians' demands for basic civil rights "are not met expeditiously for fear of inciting sensitivities among the Muslim majority that may in turn lead to eruption of uncontrollable tension," the brief said.

      Sam Grace, of Coptic News, told WND that the temporary order from U.S. District Judge Thomas Vanaskie was significant.

      "Judge Vanaskie found that there was a compelling case for the argument that deportation would cause irreparable harm and that the record bore out that if Sameh was returned to Egypt, he probably would face torture," Grace told WND.

      "Khouzam has presented a claim that his removal will violate the [Convention Against Torture.] In this regard, no showing has been made by [the government] that removal based upon diplomatic assurances by a country known to have engaged in torture is consistent with the CAT," the judge wrote.

      Grace said since Egypt's constitution concludes laws derive from the Quran, persecution of Christians is not only allowed but endorsed by the government.

      "In the last 10 years, more than 5,000 Christians have been massacred in Egypt," he told WND. "Hundreds of businesses and homes first have been looted, then burned and destroyed. Churches have been burned and destroyed.

      Khouzam spent nearly eight years in immigration custody when he first arrived in the U.S. because Egyptian officials said he had killed someone before leaving Egypt. He denied the accusation.

      According to reports from his supporters, the scenario happened this way:

      Khouzam was resisting police demands to convert to Islam, so authorities abducted his mother and said she would not be released unless he converted. He made that promise, but when he was pulled in front of a Muslim woman, to whom he was ordered to be married as part of his conversion, he resisted.

      The woman's mother tried to hit him with a vase but he blocked the attack and cut a tendon in his hand. While being treated for the injury, Khouzam climbed out an open bathroom window and escaped from the hospital, running for the airport where some friends helped him get a ticket to the U.S.

      According to federal documents, it was confirmed by officials at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City that Khouzam arrived with a bandaged hand, a wound he blamed on a fight with the woman.

      She was the one who allegedly was killed, police said, an incident for which Khouzam was convicted in Egypt even though he wasn't present.

      As WND also has reported, the Egyptian government, through its education ministry, also is trying to coerce two school boys to convert to Islam because their father, who left the family several years ago, now has decided to convert.

      Related stories:
      Egyptian Christian escapes deportation
      Christian fears torture if deported
      Muslims attack Christians accused of building church
      Al-Qaida's fingerprints on Dahab bombings
      Muslims trash Egyptian church
      Christian in mental hospital over Islam switch
      Egypt attempts to close Copt church
      Egypt destroys new Coptic church
      Why Egypt's Coptic Christians suffer

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