A Coptic family that has been held in prison since last April pending investigation on suspicions of assisting a Muslim woman to convert to Christianity and leave the country have been finally set free
The prosecutor-general yesterday issued the order to release the Copts, but their release was postponed for one day owing to administrative procedures.
The story goes back to last March, when the young Muslim woman Rana al-Shazli, a 21-year-old university student in the town of Wasta in Beni-Sweif, some 100km south of Cairo, went missing. Shazli’s disappearance sparked several waves of attacks by the town Muslims against the town Copts, in collective punishment for allegedly helping her convert to Christianity and flee Egypt.
Shazli contacted her family several times from Turkey, insisting she has not converted, was married to a Muslim and was expecting a baby, and explaining that she had fled her home because of what she said was sexual abuse at the hands of her uncle. She claimed her family knew about her predicament but preferred to keep silent about it, and that her father had attempted to marry her off to a man she did not want. . Her Islamist father and uncle, however, insisted she has been ‘tricked’ by the local priest who they claimed used ‘black magic’ to convert her, and that the Church should return her to her family. They incited the Islamist attacks against the town Copts, saying the Muslims had to rise to the defence of their faith and women against the infidels. The Church, for its part, said it had nothing at all to do with Shazli’s disappearance.
Hatem al-Shazli, the woman’s father, accused the Coptic young man Abra’am Zaky—who went into hiding—of being pivotal in his daughter’s disappearance.
The entire Zaky family were caught by the police last April and charged with being accomplices to Abra’am. The father, Zaky Andrawus, the mother Suad Akhnoun, and a cousin, Peter Bahig are all charged with collaborating with Abra’am in hiding Shazli, seizing her money, forcing her to convert to Christianity and facilitating the procedures of her travelling to Turkey. Abra’am’s name has been placed on the travel ban lists.
8 December 2013