Egyptian Christian Girl Abducted to Force 'Reconciliation' in Murdered Brother's Case
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Egypt (AINA) -- Amal Estephanos, a 19 year old Catholic Copt, was abducted in broad daylight on Saturday, September 12, 2009, by a Muslim to force her father to accept reconciliation with the families of the Muslim murderers of his son Amir Stephanos.

In an interview with Osama Eid of Free Copts, Estephanos said his daughter Amal was kidnapped by the ?unemployed worker Ibrahim Ali Negm, after she was drugged and bundled into a pickup truck, with the assistance of village strangers. She was taken to Aswan City, to be forced to convert to Islam. This abduction was witnessed by several people..

Estephanos said the State Security has pressuring him to accept taking part in a "reconciliation session" with the family of the murderers, which he adamantly refuses. "With this abduction, they want to humiliate me, and force me to cave in to their reconciliation efforts," he told Free Copts.

He appealed to President Mubarak saying "I want my daughter back. It is enough what happened to my son Amir, whose blood is not yet dry."

Reports from Hegaza village indicate that Amal is in Aswan with one of the organizations specializing in forced Islamization of Copts, and that she may have been raped.

Free Copts reported that State Security is detaining the abductor's family until the Amal has been released. This unusual State Security assistance is possibly due to the intervention of Abdel-Rady Araby, member of the Egyptian Shura (Advisory) Council. He told Free Copts on 16th September 2009 that Amal's abduction was a "blow to his efforts of reconciliation" between the families. He said that he had arranged for a 'reconciliation meeting' to be held on Monday 14th September only to learn that the abduction took place just two days before.

Amal, who lives in the village of Hegaza, Qus, Qena Governorate, which lies 600 km south of Cairo, is the youngest sister of Amir Estephanos (22), who was murdered together with his friend Adib Hedra Soliman (22) on April 18, 2009, after attending a worship service on Easter Eve at the nearby St. Boktor's Monastery. They were intercepted by members of a Muslim family who had a blood feud with his friend Adib's family since 2004. Amir Stephanos was not involved in the feud but still he was executed by the firing squad. They received 70 bullets to the head and body. A third Christian who was also with them, Mina Samir was seriously injured, and subsequently lost an arm and a leg as a result of the shootings.

The four accused Muslims, including two brothers involved in the family feud, were referred to the Criminal Court of Qena, which began its hearings on June 29, 2009.

The Estephanos tragedy began again, after renewed pressure from the State Security to effect a reconciliation, following the intervention of Shura member Abdel-Rady Araby.

Coptic families of the murdered were threatened with deportation by Security.

The blood feud between the Muslim Mohamed Saeed family and the Christian Soliman family goes back to the 6th November 2004, when the two families had a brawl in the village market, leaving Mohamed Saeed (58 years) dead after receiving a blow on the head with a stick.

The events which followed that brawl and the unjust consequences for the Copts in Hegaza, is still vivid in the memory of many Copts.

"In spite of the overwhelming majority of villagers blaming the death of Mohammed Saeed on a relative of his called Abdel Qader Ibrahim, and his brother Noubi, the police decided to accuse the Copts Saleeb, Gamal, and Mounir Adeeb Soliman. Meanwhile, the accusations against the Ibrahim brothers were never investigated," said human rights activist Hala elMasry, who is also a local inhabitant. A sentence of 3 years imprisonment was passed on each of the accused Copt for manslaughter.

In order to please the family of the murdered Muslim, the State Security together with elders of four families in Hegaza decided in a 'reconciliation session' to deport from the village, seventeen Coptic families who are related to the three convicted Copts. A total of 122 Copts left their village, carrying only their personal belongings, leaving behind their homes, fields, businesses and livelihood.

The displaced Coptic families of Higaza are still living away from their homes and still are banned from returning back, five years later.

What brought about the Easter Eve 2009 murders, according to researchers from the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), was that some members of two of the Christian families displaced in 2004, have returned to Hegaza village on the day of the murders to bury one of their relatives in the village cemeteries. One of the murdered, Adib, was the youngest brother of one of the convicted Copts in the 2004 incident.

Among the main Coptic demands, besides the ratification of a law regulating building houses of worship, is the abolition of the unofficial "reconciliation sessions," forced by State Security, which always end up by the Coptic side giving up their right to pursue criminal charges, allowing the Muslim perpetrator to literally "get away with murder."

By Mary Abdelmassih

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