Advocacy Group Calls for Protest Following Raid on Christian Bookstore in Cairo

April 1, 2008

MEDIA ADVISORY, March 17 /Christian Newswire/ — North Americans are urged to contact Egyptian consulates to express concern about a police raid on a Christian bookstore in Cairo, Egypt, said Jan Fletcher, executive director of Advocates For The Persecuted.

Egyptian police arrested Shenouda Armia Bakhait midday Saturday, March 15, confiscating books, compact discs, and issues of a newspaper read by Christians in Egypt. He was released Sunday night after posting bail in the amount of 500 EGP.

According to sources in Egypt, Egyptian authorities have said a summons will be issued for Shenouda Armia Bakhait to appear in court. It is not clear what, if any, formal accusations have been made.

David Joseph, president of Advocates For The Persecuted, said, “At 12 noon, Cairo time, General Tarik Barakat, Lt. Assem Al Sherief, and eight undercover policemen stormed into the Nile Christian Book Shop. They spent two hours searching everything in the bookstore. Mr. Shenouda was interrogated for more than five hours by Mohamed Abou al Fetouh, a prosecutor, and Mohammed Issa, president of the court.”

Joseph is president of the Egyptian Christian Youth Union, which runs the Nile Christian Book Shop. The Church of God in Egypt owns the bookstore. Joseph founded the Egyptian Christian Youth Union in 1982. A U.S. citizen, he now resides in El Cajon, California.

Fletcher said the arrest came one day after Mohammed Hegazy came into the bookstore, apparently to buy books.

Hegazy is the first Egyptian Muslim convert to petition Egypt’s Administrative Court to change his religious affiliation on his national identity card. A hearing over his petition sparked a melee in an Egyptian courtroom in January. Judge Muhammad Husseini denied Hegazy’s request in January, ruling that it was against Islamic law for a Muslim to leave Islam.

The Nile Christian Book Shop opened in 2006 in a location that first housed a bookstore in 1890.

“We posted a suggested letter we’d like to see sent to Egyptian consulates on our website at http://www.advocatesforthepersecuted.org,” said Fletcher. “Sending this letter is an important step Americans and Canadians can take to present a clear message to Egypt’s government that the sizable population of Christians in Egypt, estimated to comprise 8 to 10 percent of the population, should have the right to distribute and obtain Christian literature.

Advocates For The Persecuted is a U.S.-based nonprofit organization that advocates for religious minorities in the Middle East, with offices in Spokane, Wash., and El Cajon, Calif.

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