Egyptian Police Detain Family of Abducted Christian Girl
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(AINA) -- On August 21, 2009 the family of 14-year-old missing Coptic girl Nagafa Mahrous went to Al-Marg police station to identify their daughter but was detained by the police "on orders from the State Security."

Nagafa, whose family reported her missing on on 6/14/2009, arrived at the police station dressed in a Burqa and told her parents she has converted to Islam and is now married. She was accompanied by 33-year old plumber Ramadan Ibrahim, whom she said was her husband. She had gone to the police to establish the fact that she was married and filed a complaint against her family demanding an official pledge from them for non-harassment.

Nagafa used the identity of her 19-year-old sister, Awatef, who went missing 15 years ago. Using her sister's data she had a national identity card issued with the name of Awatef and was therefore able to change her religion and get married. "Of course she has not thought of that alone, she is still a child," said Nabil Ghobrial, Coptic activist and attorney of the Mahrous family, in an audio interview with Wagih Yacoub of the Middle East Christian Association (MECA).

According to Ghobrial, the Al-Marg Police Captain, Walid Abdel-Aziz, refused to issue a police report at first, under the pretext that the family has to prove that Nagafa is a minor, and then refused to give them the police report number.

Ghobrial accused Nagafa Mahrous and Ramadam Ibrahim of falsification of official documents, Ramadan with abduction and rape of a minor (which Captain Abdel Aziz refused to document in the report) and the Islamic marriage clerk (ma'azoun) with issuing a marriage certificate to a minor.

When the abducted girl's family came to leave the police station, Captain Walid Abdel-Aziz detained them "on orders from the State Security."

"The abducted girl's mother, her 13-year-old brother Hany and her grandfather were detained, which is a flagrant violation of the Mahrous family's civil rights," Ghobrial said. All concerned would be presented to the Public Prosecution on the following day.

All parties were presented to the prosecution on 22nd August. Commenting on the session, Attorney Ghobrial said that all those held in custody were released without any charges, including the 14-year-old Nagafa and her so-called Muslim husband Ramadan Ibrahim. "Although the Prosecutor admitted that the official document were falsified no charges were brought against any one." he told Yacoub of MECA. "It was also found out that the Islamic marriage clerk knew that the minor girl was still Christian, he documented that she was Muslim with the name of Mariam." He also added that the police pressured the family to pledge not to harass their 14-year-old daughter.

"I am informing the President of the Republic and the Interior Minister that a family comes to the police station reporting the abduction of their minor daughter and they get detained unlawfully 'on orders from the State Security,'" said Ghorbrial. "Besides, how can a child be detained? Where are the laws protecting the rights of the child?"

Ghorbrial criticized Al-Azhar for converting a 14-year-old girl in the absence of the Advice and Guidance Committee, as specified by the Registry Office. A law regulating the Advice and Guidance committees was passed in 1863 by Isma'il Pasha, the Khedive of Egypt, according to which a Copt only converts to Islam after attending sittings with these committees, which were attended by a priest, to ensure a sincere desire on his part to convert without being subjected to any pressure.

With the advent of the 1952 Revolution, this law was abolished, to be replaced by various laws in the same vain, until 1997 when The Interior Ministry agreed with Alazhar that the Fatwa Council would send the documents of those wishing to convert to Islam to the State Security. Matters went on as usual, giving the right to the concerned families to be present, which in many cases led to the would-be converts revising their decision and remaining Christian. In 2004 the Ministry of Interior unilaterally stopped the use of the Advice and Guidance Committees without acquiring a ministerial decree canceling the law regulating the procedures for conversion into Islam.

It is widely believed that the Interior Ministry cancelled the Advice and Guidance Committees as a result of the exposure of its complicity in forced Islamization of Coptic minor girls (AINA 7-18-2009, 7-30-2009, 8-11-2009).

Ghobrial said "There is nothing in the law which gives powers to the Fatwa Council."

According to the renowned Coptic political analyst Magdy Khalil, not one case of minor abduction and rape was ever presented by the Ministry of the Interior to the judiciary, making it an accomplice in these terrible crimes.

"In many cases of forced Islamization Coptic minor girls, the State Security conspires to facilitate the criminal act, misleads the bereaved families of the victims and turns them from victim to accused," he said.

Ghobrial believes there is a strong Islamic cell operating in the Al-Marg district of Cairo north, which is working on the Islamization of Christian minors and falsifying their papers.

"My collegues and I have been working for quite some time on the Coptic issue and there are many cases of girls being abducted and who go missing in Al Marg," he said. "We found out that the State Security participates in the abduction of Coptic minor girls. They are then kept away until they reach the age of 18 years, after which the police closes the case file relevant to that girl and she becomes a de facto Muslim."

By Mary Abdelmassih

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