03/11/2013, 00.00
LIBYA - EGYPT

Egyptian Christian dies in Benghazi whilst in custody of Muslim extremists

The cause of death of Evangelical Christian Ezzat Hakim Attalah remains unclear. The 45-year-old man was arrested on 28 February along with five other Egyptians on charges of distributing religious material. More than 50 Egyptian Copts arrive home after weeks in Salafist hands. They complain about harassment and torture.

Benghazi (AsiaNews) - An Egyptian Evangelical Christian died after spending ten days in a Benghazi jail. Ezzat Hakim Attalah (pictured), a 45-year-old father of two, was arrested on 28 February along with five fellow Evangelicals on charges of proselytising, Middle East Christian News Agency (MCN-Direct) reported.

Egyptian Foreign Ministry sources said that Attalah, who suffered from diabetes and heart ailments, died of natural causes. Speaking to MCN-Direct, Attalah's wife Ragaa Abdullah Guirguis said that he died because of the pressures and torture by Libyan prison guards. She said that she would seek the help of international lawyers to establish the real cause of his death.

The case of the Egyptian Evangelical Christian in Libya is symptomatic of the tragic fate of Christians in Libya, victims of Salafist groups that control the country's Cyrenaica region.

Last week, extremists imprisoned more than 50 Coptic pedlars for allegedly showing icons and other religious material on their stalls.

Reports about the event went viral worldwide when Libyan activists posted a video about the incident, which Libyan police eventually seized.

Once they arrived home, the Coptic pedlars complained of beatings and torture at the hands of Muslim extremists who used acid to remove traditional Coptic tattoos representing crosses and other Christian symbols from their hands, chest and forehead.

Since Gaddafi's fall, the number of attacks against foreign residents has increased, mostly against Egyptians, especially Catholic and Orthodox Copts.

Last month, four foreigners from Egypt, South Africa, South Korea and a Swede with a US passport were arrested for allegedly circulating Bibles and other religious material. They are currently in a Tripoli jail waiting for trial.

Catholic religious orders have also been targeted by Muslim groups despite operating in the country for decades in hospitals and nursing homes.

In January, Islamists forced the Franciscan Sisters of the Infant Jesus to leave the city of Barca. The same thing happened to the Ursuline Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the city of Bayda.

In October, the Sisters of the Convent of the Sacred Family of Spoleto were forced out of Derna even though local residents wanted them to stay. (S.C.)

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