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In a late October crackdown, state security police arrested and tortured a Christian couple from a Muslim background. Police also arrested and mistreated 20 other Egyptian citizens, many of whom are Christian converts. Authorities accused them of forging Christian identity papers for former Muslims.

By mid-November, 17 of the 22 were out on bail.

Police arrested the couple in Alexandria on October 18. Two days later, police transferred the two to central Cairo's El-Mosky police station, where they were beaten, denied food, and hung by their arms. Others arrested in October were reportedly beaten, tortured, or raped.

Egypt's constitution guarantees religious freedom. Christian citizens who want to convert to Islam are free to adopt Muslim names and change their official religious identities. But Muslims who become Christians often face arrest, torture, and threats. Islamic law demands that unrepentant apostates be executed.

Many converts have tried to change their religious status by bypassing government channels, leaving themselves open to the charge of falsifying official documents.

A group of former Muslims who have converted to Christianity issued an anonymous declaration from Cairo on October 26.

"We are between the jaws of the constitution and the [Islamic] legislation," the Christian converts stated. "The Egyptian government … has deprived us of one of our basic legal rights."


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More articles from Egypt are available on our Egypt page.

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In the Magazine

January 2004

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