Coptic Christian activist arrested for terrorism and spreading false news
Ramy Kamel, one of the founders of the Maspero Youth Union, was arrested for posting footage showing anti-Christian violence and brutality in southern Egypt, where sectarian Muslims are seizing goods and land owned by Christians. For Egyptian activist, the government is fighting its adversaries and activists, not terrorists.
Cairo (AsiaNews) – An Egyptian prosecutor issued an arrest warrant for human rights activist Ramy Kamel, a Coptic Christian, on charges of joining a terrorist organisation and spreading false news. According to the latter’s lawyer, his client is now in custody.
Kamel is a prominent activist and one of the founders of the Maspero Youth Union, a joint Islamic-Christian human rights group that led street protests in 2011 that ended Hosni Mubarak’s regime.
He is accused of sharing footage of sectarian violence in Upper Egypt on his social media accounts. He has criticised top government officials for failing to curb sectarian violence against Christians in the south.
Kamel posted videos showing alleged sectarian violence in southern Egypt in which Coptic Christians are forcibly evicted by their Muslim neighbours, suggesting that the evictions were carried out with the tacit approval of local authorities.
Since his arrest, Kamel's Facebook page has been deactivated. According to his lawyer Atef Nazmy, Kamel was arrested at his home in Cairo on Saturday by plainclothes police officers.
The following day he was questioned at length. A Cairo prosecutor then charged him with joining a terrorist group, receiving foreign funds, and publishing false information. He then remanded him to provisional detention for 15 days pending investigations.
Currently, at least 60,000 people are thought to be detained in Egypt for political offences and crimes of opinion, human rights NGOs report, but the number could be much higher.
Critics have slammed President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for violently cracking down against protests and activism despite claiming to be the defender of minorities, especially Christians.
Speaking to Middle East Eye Mina Thabet, a Christian former leader of the Maspero Youth Union, currently programme manager of Civil Liberties and Minorities programmes at the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), said that Kamel had been the target of Egyptian security services for weeks, with the latter trying to get him to stop posting on social media or face arrest.
For Thabet, his posts do not fit with government pro propaganda on Coptic Christians. “The Sisi government is waging a war against its opposition, rather than a war against terrorism,” he explained. And the charges against Kamel are “farcical”. The state, in his view, “underestimates” the scale of sectarian violence in the country.
In a nation of almost 95 million people with a large Muslim majority, Christians, mostly Copts, are a substantial minority of around 10 per cent.
In 2016 and 2017, the country was the scene of series of deadly attacks against the Christian community.
In mid-October a military court sentenced 17 people to death in connection with some of those attacks; however, despite the government’s iron fist, violence has not abated.