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Cablegate: Egyptian Convert Convicted of Forgery

VZCZCXRO3567
PP RUEHROV
DE RUEHEG #1984 2921451
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 191451Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3923
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L CAIRO 001984

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR DRL/IRF

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/15/2029
TAGS: PHUM PGOV KIRF KISL EG
SUBJECT: EGYPTIAN CONVERT CONVICTED OF FORGERY

REF: CAIRO 1848

Classified By: Economic-Political Minister-Counselor Donald A. Blome for reasons 1.4 (d).
1. (SBU) On October 14, a Cairo criminal court convicted Einas Refaat Mohamed Hassan, a convert from Islam to Christianity, of forgery for possessing a false national identity card. Hassan apparently used documents formerly belonging to a deceased Christian woman to obtain a national identity card listing her religion as "Christianity." The court sentenced Hassan to one year in prison.

2. (C) According to Peter El Naggar, Hassan's attorney, his client can appeal, but it is unlikely that an appellate court would rule before Hassan completes her sentence, which she began serving immediately. El Naggar told us that security officials at the Cairo International Airport arrested Hassan, a professor of veterinary medicine at a large public university, in late May when she attempted to board a flight to travel to an academic conference in South Africa. Hassan has been in and out of detention ever since. El Naggar said that although Hassan attempted to leave Egypt using legitimate identification documents, airport security officials were somehow aware that she also possessed false identity documents listing her religion as Christianity.

3. (SBU) Hassan's case is complicated by the fact that she undoubtedly violated Egyptian law by obtaining a false identification document. Egyptian converts from Islam to Christianity, however, believe they have little choice as the GoE refuses to document conversions away from Islam. This refusal creates real hardship for converts as they are unable to marry outside of Islam, their children are required to study Islam in public schools, and they are subject to Islamic divorce and inheritance laws.

4. (C) Comment: In recent months, converts from Islam to Christianity have been subject to intense GoE scrutiny when attempting to travel through Cairo International Airport. (Ref A). Religious leaders at a Cairo church that regularly works with converts attribute this scrutiny to increased Islamic religiosity among working-level security officials. While they do not see the senior levels of the GoE as also becoming more religious, they believe the GoE is unwilling to appear "un-Islamic." It is, therefore, reluctant to curb restrictions on and the abuse of converts from Islam to Christianity. We recently raised the issue of heightened scrutiny and abuse of converts with the GoE and will continue to do so. Scobey

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