Egyptian Court Dismisses Muslim Case Against Christian Woman
By Mary Abdelmassih
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(AINA) -- The Egyptian administrative court of the State Council dismissed today the lawsuit filed by Muslim lawyers, demanding the disclosure of the whereabouts of Camilia Shehata, the wife of a Coptic priest, who was alleged to have converted to Islam and held against her will by the Coptic Church. In reaching its decision, the court said the Muslim lawyers failed to provide proof to support their claim of the detention of Camilia by the church.

Camilia's attorney, Dr. Naguib Gabriel, said "The only thing the Muslim lawyers delivered as proof for their claims were snippets of newspapers from the Internet."

The case lasted over four months, during which Dr. Gabriel submitted as proof unequivocal documents that Camilia was never detained by the church and she never converted to Islam as alleged. Among the documents was a power of attorney from Camilia for him to represent her at court. "This was issued by the public notary, by a Muslim employee and in which she wrote "Christian" beside her religious affiliation, while she could have easily written Muslim instead." said Gabriel. "If she was really detained by the church, she could have asked for help from the employee when she went to the notary," he added. Also, a certificate from Al-Azhar stating that she never converted to Islam was presented as evidence.

The prosecution also heard the testimony of Bishop Armiya, secretary to Pope Shenouda III, who denied the church had detained her. It also took the testimony of Anba Agapios, Bishop of Deir Mawass, Minya Governorate, who also refuted the charge.

Previously, the court had responded to the Muslim lawyers' demands regarding Camilia's conversion to Islam, saying the issue was the beliefs of people, but whether there was a detainment or not. Also, the Muslim lawyers had demanded Camelia appear in person before the court, which was refused by the court.

"Today's court ruling closes the curtain on one of the most famous and difficult cases in Egypt." said attorney Dr. Gabriel. "Muslims will not be allowed to demonstrate regarding this matter anymore, which they used as a pretext to create sectarian strife between Muslims and Christians."

The story of Camelia Shehata, which became a public issue for the last 11 months, started on July 19, 2010, when after a dispute with her husband, Father Tedaos Samaan, priest at St. Georges Church in Deir Mawas, she left home and went to Cairo to stay with relatives, without telling anyone of her whereabouts. "This was my biggest mistake," said Camilia in an interview with Al-Hayat Christian TV Channel from her hide-out with her husband and 2-year-old son.

Her husband, believing she was abducted by Muslims, like many other cases, came with some 3000 Copts from his congregation to protest her disappearance at St. Mark's Coptic Cathedral in Cairo (AINA 7-23-2010).

State Security found her a few days later and handed her over to her sister who lives in Cairo. She later reconciled with her husband and the family has lived in hiding ever since, as Muslim demonstrations started to take place, demanding the return of "their sister in Islam, Camelia."

Faked photos of Camilia in a Hijab appeared on the internet and over 20 demonstrations were staged by Muslim, accusing the church of abducting new converts (females) to Islam and holding them against their will in churches and monasteries, where they were tortured (AINA 9-18-2010).

Camilia appeared in a video clip from her hideout, taken under utmost security by the independent daily El-Youm7, in which she denied ever converting to Islam (video). The Muslims said it was not Camilia but was her double who appeared, and carried on with their demonstration, the last of which was on April 30, when they encircled the Coptic Cathedral and the Pope's residence vowing that "Camilia must return" (AINA 4-30-2011). Camelia appeared for a second time on May 7, in a one-hour interview on Al-Hayat TV, in which she denied all Muslim claims of ever having met any of them or having been to Al Azhar with them. On both occasions she confirmed her Christian faith.

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