Egypt secures release of Copts in Libya

Source: Daily News Egypt

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Sunday that the Egyptian Consulate in Benghazi, Libya secured the release of 20 Egyptian Copts from Libyan authorities. The ministry also said that 23 Egyptian citizens are still in Libya.

It was reported on Sunday that around 100 Egyptian Copts had been detained and allegedly tortured by Libya’s Preventative Security forces, charged with illegal immigration.

Deputy spokesperson for the ministry Nazih El Naggary said on Sunday that Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr contacted his Libyan counterpart, Mohamed Abdelaziz. The pair discussed “the need to find a solution to the issue of Egyptian citizens who are still detained in Libya”. Their conversation occurred following the testimony of the church pastor, who had suffered “a vicious attack”.

“The Libyan minister felt sorry for what happened, calling it unacceptable,” said El Naggary. He also reported that the Libyan minister said a “crisis committee” had been assembled to discuss the issue.

Naguib Gabriel, head of the Egyptian Union for Human Rights, re-affirmed that around 100 people had been arrested originally and said that five people still remained in Libya.“The problem is not solved,” he said. He added that those who were released are being treated in a hospital in Matruh.

The detainees were also accused of attempting to convert people, with one Libyan official telling AFP that items such as the Bible and images of Christ were not “for personal use”.

“Among these five still in Libya is a publisher of the holy book and the others had pictures of Jesus. They were not trying to convert people,” Gabriel said. He also reported that a number of those detained claimed to have suffered electrical burns at the hands of the Libyan authorities.

In December 2012 a Coptic church was attacked in the Libyan province of Misrata, leaving two Egyptians dead and two more injured. The ministry condemned the attack and the Egyptian embassy called on the Libyan authorities to safeguard Coptic churches.

In February one Egyptian was arrested along with three others for proselytising, and could face the death penalty under laws enacted by former leader Muammar Gaddafi.

There have also been incidents of Egyptian citizens being arrested for illegally entering Libya. In January 170 Egyptians were deported from Libya, many of whom had travelled without obtaining a visa and some without passports. The ministry made a plea in December calling on Egyptians to stop entering Libya illegally.

Mike Kaldas

May God help us all