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Cablegate: Egyptian Court Rules Against Convert

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PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHEG #0256 0421607
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 111607Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8118
INFO RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS CAIRO 000256

SIPDIS

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SENSITIVE

DRL/IRF FOR COFSKY
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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KIRF PHUM PGOV EG
SUBJECT: EGYPTIAN COURT RULES AGAINST CONVERT

Sensitive but unclassified. Please protect accordingly.

1. (SBU) On January 29, the Cairo Administrative Court
denied the petition of Mohamed Hegazy, a Muslim-born convert
to Christianity, to change the religious affiliation on his
national identification card from Islam to Christianity.
While Hegazy has the right to appeal the decision, he will
probably not do so because, according to his lawyer Gamal Eid
of the Arab Network for Human Rights, the court dismissed the
case because of "procedural defects," defects that an appeal
cannot correct.

2. (SBU) Following the court's decision, we met with Gamal
Eid. Eid told us that regardless of the procedural defects
in the case (see below), Hegazy's case has merit and he would
continue his efforts to secure Hegazy's rights, possibly by
filing a lawsuit on behalf of Hegazy's wife, also a
Muslim-born convert to Christianity. Eid described the
lawyer who originally filed the case on Hegazy's behalf in
August 2007 as an "extremist" who sought to win the case
through publicity. He said this approach attracted other
extremists, which while bringing Hegazy extensive public
attention, did nothing to achieve official recognition of his
conversion.

3. (SBU) Eid told us that the most significant procedural
defect in the case was that Hegazy's original lawyer, who
subsequently withdrew, failed to file a statement from the
Coptic or any other church certifying Hegazy's conversion.
According to Eid, the Coptic Church is reluctant to issue
such statements, but said that perhaps other denominations
would. Eid told us that Hegazy contemplated filing suit
against the Coptic Church to obtain a certificate of
conversion, but decided not to do so, aware that such a
lawsuit would draw even more attention and controversy to his
situation. Hegazy intends to remain in Egypt, despite
threats, and is hopeful that the government will ultimately
permit him to officially document his conversion.

4. (SBU) Comment: This appears to be the first time that a
Muslim-born convert to Christianity has filed suit to obtain
government recognition. Because the court dismissed Hegazy's
case on procedural grounds, a decision Eid told us was
legally proper, it is difficult to use the case as a gauge of
the Egyptian court system's position on religious freedom.
The conversion of a Muslim-born Egyptian to Christianity is
probably the most sensitive religious issue in the country.
How Egypt's courts and bureaucracy respond to any subsequent,
procedurally sound case brought by a Muslim-born convert to
Christianity will be illustrative of the government's
commitment to the guarantee of religious freedom contained in
Egypt's Constitution.
RICCIARDONE

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