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Cablegate: Religious Identity Conviction and Prison Sentence

VZCZCXYZ0022
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHEG #3334 3301613
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 261613Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7543
INFO RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS CAIRO 003334

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

NSC STAFF FOR WATERS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KIRF PHUM PGOV EG
SUBJECT: RELIGIOUS IDENTITY CONVICTION AND PRISON SENTENCE

REF: 06 CAIRO 7164

Sensitive but unclassified. Please protect accordingly.

1. (SBU) Summary: On November 21, a Cairo criminal court
sentenced an Egyptian Christian woman, Shadia Nagui Ibrahim,
to three years in prison for fraud regarding her religious
identity. The conviction stems from Ibrahim's father's brief
conversion to Islam in 1962 and Ibrahim's subsequent
declaration during her 1981 wedding that she was Christian.
Ibrahim's lawyer advised us on November 25 that she is
currently imprisoned and has little hope of being freed on
appeal. End Summary.

2. (SBU) According to Ramses Al Najaar, Ibrahim's attorney,
in 1964, when Ibrahim was 3 or 4 years old and living with
her family in the Nile Delta village of Miet Ghamer, her
father left the family and briefly converted from
Christianity to Islam. Within a year, Ibrahim's father
returned and reconverted to Christianity. According to
Najaar, she was unaware of her father's conversion and was
raised as a Christian. In 1981, she married and stated on
her marriage certificate that she was Christian.

3. (SBU) In 1996, a minor local official, who assisted
Ibrahim's father years earlier in documenting his
reconversion, was arrested for falsifying documents. During
the investigation, Ibrahim's father also was arrested. In
1997, Ibrahim and her sister, Bahiah Ibrahim, visited their
father at the local jail. They told investigators that they
were unaware of their father's conversion and that they had
always been Christians. They were then accused of falsely
claiming on official documents - Ibrahim's marriage
certificate, Shadia's national identification card - to be
Christians. Following an investigation which the family
thought had been closed, the two sisters were tried in
absentia in 2000, convicted of fraud, and sentenced to three
years in prison.

4. (SBU) No action was taken to enforce the 2000 conviction
until August 26, 2007, when police arrested Ibrahim. In
accordance with Egyptian criminal law, the court vacated the
earlier conviction in absentia, and, on November 21, she was
re-tried, convicted of fraud, and sentenced again to three
years in prison, the maximum possible sentence.

5. (SBU) On November 25, we met with Najaar. He attributed
the renewed prosecution of the case to the recent attention
and controversy surrounding the issue of religious
identification, something that is required on all official
documents. The plight of Egypt's small Baha'i minority, who
are unable to obtain national identification cards or other
official documents, has drawn attention to the issue
(reftel), as has the case of a number of reconverts to
Christianity. Ibrahim's lawyer said that since the 2000
conviction, Ibrahim has paid bribes to keep the public
prosecutor from arresting her and enforcing the sentence.
With the recent focus on the issue, the lawyer said bribes
are no longer sufficient. Ibrahim's lawyer said he will file
an appeal, but he has little hope that it will succeed. She
is currently imprisoned and the lawyer expects she will serve
the full three-year sentence.

6. (SBU) When we raised the case with the MFA on November 26,
they claimed to be unaware of it but promised to look into
it. We will follow-up closely.
RICCIARDONE

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