One Year behind bars, two Copts are unjustly detained in regime’s prison

Two Christian Copts, brothers Refaat and Ibrahim Fawzy Abdo, who were falsely accused last May of killing one of the militant Muslim raiders on the Abu Fana, Monastery, have been detained for a third time.

In spite of having been released again by a court ruling this month and the Ministry of Interior losing its appeal against this ruling, Minya State Security Services issued a new detention order, and the brothers were transferred back yesterday for the third consecutive time, to the New Valley detention camp. They were awaiting the implementation of the Court verdict to release them at the Minya prison.

"Each time the court rules in their favor, the State Security issues a detention order, to circumvent the courts’ rulings, and sends them back to the New Valley detention camp, near the borders with Sudan," says activist Wagih Yacoub of the Middle East Christian Association (MECA).

"Why is the State Security adamant to detain them ‘politically’, although their case is an ordinary criminal one and in spite of having been already released on bail by court since January 2009. This case is not subject to political detention which is reserved for those who pose a threat to public security and the State?" asks Yacoub.

Nader Shoukry of Copts-United says: "The state security is now putting pressure on the families of the Coptic Abdo brothers to leave town, which they rejected, since it is not possible after detaining the brothers for a whole year, to also make their families homeless."

The majority of Coptic activists believe that the Coptic brothers, who have been detained for almost a year, despite being released twice by the courts, have been pushed into this case by the State Security, as ‘scapegoats’ to draw the attention from the scandal of the Arab attack on the 4th century Abu Fana Monastery last May; a scandal which shocked the world and gave rise to angry Coptic demonstration in all the western cities.

The Abdo brother’s attorney, Zakary Kamal, insists that they are the victims in the ‘balancing act’ used by the State Security whenever sectarian strife breaks out.

Some observers believe that all the government efforts have been directed from the start to support the Governor of Minya’s untrue version of events, and that the authorities are using the brothers as leverage against the Coptic Church to make them state that the attack on the Monastery was not religiously motivated, which the Church leaders are refusing to do.

When the story of the attack and the torturing of the monks first broke out the Minya Governor Ahmed Dia Eldin provocatively stated publicly that the attacks were not sectarian, in an effort to downplay the incident.

He said that the incident was "an ordinary quarrel over disputed land between neighbors," and that "fire was exchanged on both sides." These allegations were openly denied by the Church leaders who asserted that ‘no monks ever keep weapons." The Egyptian government still insists until today on this version of the Governor’s story.

During the investigations in June 2008, the security police subjected the two Coptic brothers Refaat and Ibrahim, to electric shocks for 8-hours daily over a period of three days, in order to extract from them false testimony against the monks of the ‘Abu Fana’ Monastery that they were in possession of weapons which they (the monks) used during the Arab attack.

In spite of the continuous torture, the two men refused to testify falsely against the innocent monks. The younger brother Ibrahim also lost his teeth as a result of continuous hitting on his face by the interrogators.

When all kinds of torture failed to force them to falsely incriminate the monks, the two brothers, were falsely charged with arms possession and the murder of one of the Muslim assailants on the Monastery, named Khalil Ibrahim Mohammed, despite the government forensic report proving that the dead man was shot in the back and that it is impossible for the two brothers to be the culprits.

The monks and witnesses have testified that Refaat was not in the Monastry at all that day, and his brother Ibrahim went to get a deposit from the Monastery, because he and his brothers are the paid contractors to build the badly-needed wall around the Monastery, to fend off the continuous Arab attacks.

During the attack on the Monastery, Ibrahim and his 6-year old daughter who accompanied him, hid for 3 hours until the attack ended. During an interview, Ibrahim told reporters that the police officer who came to the Monastery to investigate the incident after the attack, asked him about his brother’s whereabouts, and he told him that his brother was in Mallawi purchasing supplies for the celebrations of the Holy Family’s visit to Egypt at St. Mary’s Monastery in Samaloot.

In order to frame Refaat, the officer asked Ibrahim to phone his brother and ask him to come to the Monastery because the officer wanted to speak with him, which he did and his brother came to the Monastery, from where he was taken to the police station.

Ibrahim Fawzi Abdo lodged a complaint, accusing head of Mallawi Police Station’s Investigations of unjustly arresting his brother Refaat.

The price of this complaint was his freedom also, as he was later arrested and joined his brother Ibrahim in prison.

During the barbaric attack last May on the Abu Fana Monastery in Mallawi, Minya Province, the 18th in the series of Arab attacks on it, the Arab assailants who were armed with automatic rifles, destroyed and burnt property, including two on-site churches, monk’s cells and crops on monastic farmland, estimated to be worth in excess of one million pounds.

Five monks and two monks-in-training were seriously injured during this attack.

The Arabs also kidnapped three monks and kept them overnight, subjecting them to torture by severe beating, whipping, and breaking their limbs.

The attackers asked them to spit on the cross and to give the confession of Islam. When the monks refused, the beatings and humiliation increased. One of the monks who had his leg and arm broken by the kidnappers, was put on a donkey, released into the desert to his fate and was told to crawl back to the Monastery.

"Although the Arabs know that Refaat and Ibrahim are innocent, they tried unsuccessfully to extort 5,000,000 Egyptian pounds from the Coptic Church in exchange for testifying in favor of the two Copts during unofficial ‘Arab Reconciliation’ meetings last November which were attended by some members of the Egyptian Parliament and Coptic businessmen from the region. However, those meetings failed as the Church would not give in to this kind of extortion," said the Coptic brother’s attorney, Kamal Zakary.

According Nader Shoukry of Copts-United, the Arab attacker knows among themselves who the real killer is, and several quarrels already broke out between them due to the mistake of one of them which lead to the killing of their Muslim son. "But the policy of the Security authorities in all sectarian strife, to which we are by now accustomed to, insist on making out of the Monastery attack just a ‘dispute’ and the victims are the Coptic contractor and his brother who have been used as ‘scapegoats’ to cover up the scandal of the attack on the Monastery." "To date, none of the individuals responsible for the attack, kidnap and torture of the Abu Fana monks has been brought to justice, and the criminal file is still open.

The state securities insist that the monks should to go back on their testimony, which they decline, as in their opinion this would be going back on the truth," Shoukry commented.

"The question is until when will the State Security continue to put pressure on the Copts to force an unfair settlement for the Abu Fana Monastery attack? The real offender, Arab chief Samir Abu Louli and his bandits are free at large while Refaat and his brother Ibrahim are behind bars, only for saving the wounded monks by transporting them in cars to hospital?" asks Meca activist Wagih Yacoub.

Most Coptic activists including Yacoub blame the Coptic and international human rights organizations for neglecting the case of those two helpless Copts, who are fighting alone against the arbitrariness of the Egyptian State Security.

Outspoken Meca activist Wagih Yacoub, who operates from inside Egypt and who was detained without reason or charges for three months in November 2007, asks "are we going to do something positive to free this ‘hero’ and his brother or are we just going to issue statements and appeals?"

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