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Cablegate: Arrest of Christian Activists

VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHEG #3256 3181535
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 141535Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7448
INFO RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS CAIRO 003256

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

NSC STAFF FOR WATERS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PHUM PGOV EG
SUBJECT: ARREST OF CHRISTIAN ACTIVISTS

Sensitive but unclassified. Please protect accordingly.

1.(U) On November 10, three members of the Toronto-based
Middle East Christians Association (MECA) were arrested, two
in Cairo and one in Alexandria. The three (Wagi Yacoub,
Victor George, and Manduh Issa) are being held in the Cairo
Prison for Provisional Detention, pending investigation of
charges that they 1) insulted Islam; 2) published inaccurate
quotations from the Koran; and 3) spread rumors that could
fuel sectarianism.

2. (SBU) On November 13, we met with Ramzi El Naggar, the
lawyer for the three MECA members. He believes that two of
the three were arrested because they identified themselves by
name in religious discussions on the social networking
website "Paltalk." The third detainee previously tried to
register MECA under Egypt's corporation law. The three have
not been formally charged and El Naggar does not expect them
to be. Instead, he believes that they will be held for three
months, the maximum permitted under Egyptian law and then
released without charges. (Note: El Naggar explained that
Egypt's criminal code permits suspects to be held for 15 days
without charges, but that a judge can extend the initial 15
day period, for 5 subsequent 15 day periods. End note). El
Naggar also represented two other MECA members who were
arrested in August, held without charges for three months and
released on November 4.

3, (SBU) During the November 13 meeting, El Naggar expressed
concern about the conditions in the jail where the three are
being held, specifically that they were sharing a cell with
common criminals, rather than political prisoners. During a
subsequent telephone conversation on November 14, El Naggar
advised that the three are now being held together and are
being treated "well".
RICCIARDONE

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