Last Wednesday, the criminal court of Shubra al-Khaima sentenced Bahiya Nagy al-Sissi in absentia to three years in prison for forgery. The crime of Bahiya, who is a 34-year-old, illiterate, Coptic, peasant woman, is that she was living and had married as a Christian while she should have been a Muslim according to her father’s brief conversion to Islam more than thirty years ago. Bahiya and her sister Shadya were then children, and were ignorant of their father’s conversion especially that he later reverted to his original Christianity. The story was kept secret by the father, but surfaced in 1996 when Ramadan Hassan Hussein, a forger, was arrested and, among his confessions, related how he had helped Sissy acquire Christian identity papers which were practically almost impossible to obtain once he reverted to Christianity.
Last year both Shadya and Bahiya were charged with forgery. Shadya was detained while Bahiya went into hiding. The case aroused a wide furore and, last January the Benha solicitor-general issued a decision decreeing the immediate release of Shadya Nagy al-Sissi from Benha prison following four months of imprisonment.
Peter al-Naggar, their lawyer, said the ruling involves several legal irregularities, and that, since the cases of the two sisters are identical, Bahiya should have been treated as Shadya.
Since they were accused of forgery, Shadya and Bahiya had insisted that they are not responsible for what their father did years ago and that they are Christian.