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Cablegate: Court Rules in Favor of Baha'is

VZCZCXYZ0010
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHEG #0157 0291547
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 291547Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8004
INFO RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS CAIRO 000157

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

NSC STAFF FOR PASCUAL, STATE DRL/IRF FOR COFSKY

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KIRF PHUM PGOV EG
SUBJECT: COURT RULES IN FAVOR OF BAHA'IS

REF: 06 CAIRO 7164

Sensitive but unclassified. Please protect accordingly.

1. (SBU) On January 29, the Cairo Administrative Court
ruled in two cases brought by members of Egypt's small Baha'i
religious community that the government may issue official
identification documents without listing the holder's
religion on the document. (Note: Under current practice, the
government requires that identification documents identify
all Egyptian citizens as members of one of the three
"heavenly" faiths - Islam, Judaism or Christianity. End
note). The government may appeal the decision to the Supreme
Administrative Court. As a general rule, the government may
not request a stay of an administrative court decision
pending an appeal. According to the lawyer for the
plaintiffs, Hossam Bahgat (please protect) of the NGO the
Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, the plaintiffs will
test the ruling immediately by applying for identification
documents.

2. (U) In December 2006, the Supreme Administrative Court
overturned a lower court ruling permitting Baha'is to list
their religious affiliation as "Baha'i" on national
identification cards (reftel). The plaintiffs in the current
case, a father seeking birth certificates for his children
and a Baha'i student seeking a national identification card,
did not ask the government to identify them as Baha'is, but
only that the government leave the block for religious
affiliation blank or list their religion as "other." The
plaintiffs and their lawyer argued that this was a compromise
solution, an argument the court apparently accepted.

3. (SBU) Comment: The January 29 ruling is welcome for
Baha'is in Egypt who have long struggled with Egypt's
restrictive national identification policy. Others
experiencing difficulty obtaining identification documents,
such as converts to Christianity, may also attempt to take
advantage of this ruling. The key question now is whether
the government will appeal, and, if so, what the final
verdict will be.
JONES

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