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Egypt arrests Coptic activist on terror charges

Coptic activist Ramy Kamel
Coptic activist Ramy Kamel, 26 November 2019 [Twitter]

A Coptic activist was arrested by Egyptian security forces this weekend as part of the government’s ongoing crackdown on members of the opposition.

Ramy Kamel was arrested in the early hours of Saturday morning from his house by seven plain clothes police officers. He was interrogated until 10pm that night without the presence of his defence team who he only saw on Sunday.

Officers did not provide an arrest warrant, confiscated his mobile phone, laptop and camera and took a number of documents relating to his work. According to social media accounts of his arrest, Kamel has asthma but was not allowed to bring his inhaler.

Kamel, who has been accused of joining a terror group, receiving foreign funding and broadcasting false information, is a founding member of Maspero’s Youth Union (MYU).

The MYU is a Coptic human rights organisation established after a church on the outskirts of Cairo was torched igniting huge protests outside the Maspero television state building in October 2011. Nearly 30 people died after armoured personnel carriers moved in and soldiers shot at the demonstrators and attacked them with batons.

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According to a Facebook post written by the head of the policy unit at the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms Mina Thabet, Kamel had been informally summoned and interrogated a few days before his arrest by officers who threatened him over his activism.

One social media user described how security forces questioned his neighbours three times before his arrest, asking them about his work and his sisters.

Kamel is outspoken about the persecution of Copts in Egypt and has shared footage on social media of attacks and the forcible removal of Christians from their homes.

Egyptian authorities have long been criticised for failing to do enough to protect Egypt’s Christians – they are often warned ahead about mob attacks but no protection is offered, which creates a culture of impunity.

Copts in Egypt are discriminated against by society at large. There is no Christian governor, dean of a university or school, member of the intelligence service or state security.

There is a one per cent cap on Christians in the army and a two per cent limit in the foreign services and the judiciary.

Despite the fact that President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi says he promotes peaceful coexistence between religious communities, Christians in Egypt have faced unprecedented persecution since his rise to power in 2014.

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