A Christian convert who gained fame after suffering persecution during the previous regime has been arrested and held, Release International has claimed.
The Christian charity, which aims to serve persecuted Christians across the world, has urged Egypt to release Mohammed Hegazy, who has been detained for allegedly attempting to report that Christians in the country were at risk from violence.
In a statement, Release claimed that Mr Hegazy’s detention, which began in December 2013, has ‘cast doubt’ on the assurances of religious freedom which Egypt’s new constitution had built into law.
According to Release, Mr Hegazy has been charged with ‘stirring up sectarian violence’, by contributing to a false report that Christians in Minya, one of the main cities in upper Egypt, were being targeted.
Colin King, UK director of Release, pointed to recent violence in the country against Christians as proof that there is ‘nothing false’ about the violence.
He highlighted the attack on 28 January, when gunmen opened fire on the Orthodox Church of the Virgin Mary in Giza, killing a security officer.
The 31-year-old Mr Hegazy converted from Islam to Christianity in 1998, taking the name Bishoy Armia Boulous. He received international media attention as the first Egyptian Christian convert to file a lawsuit, to try to change the religious identity shown on his ID card.
He was sent death threats and, in January 2008, the Supreme Administrative Court ruled against him, citing Islamic law. His Christian convert wife and child had to go into hiding amid threats of execution.
Mr King said, ‘Release is urging the Egyptian authorities to let Mr Hegazy go free and to protect the country’s Christian minority from further attack’.