Ruling on Egyptians bid for Christian ID expected soon - 10 February 2009

Istanbul. Following a hearing on Saturday (February 7), the lawyer for a Christian convert in Egypt said he is hopeful that his client will become the first Muslim-born Egyptian to be granted official identification as a Christian.

Nabil Ghobreyal, attorney in the controversial and long-running legal effort by Maher Ahmad El-Mo’otahssem Bellah El-Gohary to change religious affiliation on his identification papers, said he expects a favorable decision at the next hearing on Feb. 21.

“I am now 90 percent sure they will accept the conversion,” said Ghobreyal. “I proved to the court that there is no legal reason why he can’t convert to Christianity according to Egyptian civil law.”

Ghobreyal said he is “generally happy with the attitude” of the new judge in the case, Hamdy Yasin, who declared that he was ready to listen to the facts of the case without prejudice. Yasin replaced Judge Mohammad Ahmad Atyia, who in a Jan. 6 hearing expelled Ghobreyal from the courtroom after the lawyer challenged his refusal to acknowledge the existence of legal documents detailing the successful attempt of a Muslim to convert to the Baha’i faith.

Lawyers for the state asked that El-Gohary, who has been in hiding under threat of death, appear in person to offer testimony. Ghobreyal protested, arguing that forcing El-Gohary to attend would present extreme risk to his personal safety. The judge agreed to (...)