Egyptian Christian escapes deportation, Man had feared torture under Islamic law in homeland


USA: July 11, 2007. An Egyptian Christian will remain in the United States for now, because even though he may have no such right, "he most assuredly has a right not to be tortured," a federal court ruled. The decision came in the case of Sameh Khouzam, 38, who has been in the U.S. for about nine years, according to spokesman Sam Grace of Coptic News. His supporters feared he would face sure torture under Egypt`s Islamic law, and U.S. District Judge Thomas Vanaskie agreed that was possible. "Judge Vanaskie found that there was a compelling case for the argument that deportation would cause irreparable harm and that the record bore out that if Sameh was returned to Egypt, he probably would face torture," Grace told WND. "Protection against torture is an essential component of the rule of law and a democratic society," the judge concluded. "While Khouzam may have no right to be in the United States, he most assuredly has a right not to be tortured." Grace said the judge appeared to distrust assurances from the State Department that Egypt had promised Khouzam would not be punished if he would return to the land he fled while under threat of violence unless he and his family converted to Islam. "Khouzam has presented a claim that his removal will violate the [Convention Against Torture.] In this regard, no showing has been made by [the government] that removal based upon diplomatic assurances by a country known to have engaged in torture is consistent with the CAT," the judge wrote. He added: "The protection against torture on which the principle of non-return rests is a fundamental right that is important to the rule of law and essential to a democratic society." The record indicates, the judge said, "a probability of torture upon Khouzam`s return to Egypt. The Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit found it more likely than not that Khouzam will be tortured, and the record before this court does not show otherwise." Because of technicalities, Grace said, Khouzam has remained in custody, but a team of lawyers is working on obtaining his release. Grace said Christians in Egypt are simple hostages. "We live in a time that is really as bad if not worse than the time of the martyrs," he told WND. Multitudes of Christians have been attacked, and many killed, yet not one Muslim ever has been convicted in the attacks. "The why is very simple, because Sharia law says the blood of the Muslim should not be shed for the blood of an unbeliever," he said. Grace said since Egypt`s constitution concludes laws derive from the Quran, persecution of Christians is not only allowed but endorsed by the government. "In the last 10 years, more than 5,000 Christians have been massacred in Egypt," he told WND. "Hundreds of businesses and homes first have been looted, then burned and destroyed. Churches have been burned and destroyed. Grace told WND that attacks, lootings and burnings are common in Egypt on Fridays, after the local imam preaches violence against Christians at his mosque. "The life of a Christian in Egypt is now worth zero. Every Muslim now knows killing a Christian [is not prosecuted]," he said. A report from the Coalition for the Defense of Human Rights concluded Coptic Christians in Egypt have been harassed, tortured and killed by Muslims for 1,400 years. "They have been subjected to all kinds of hate crimes including, the abduction of young Coptic girls, the killing of Coptic women and children and the destruction of their places of worship," the report concluded. Over just the past 40 years, the Egyptian government has "endorsed and fostered ... Islamic radicalism," bringing persecution on Christians. The Egyptian government has worked to place in its constitution a provision emphasizing the role of Islam as the main source of legislation, and not even three months ago, Muslims attacked a Coptic cathedral, injuring four Christians, but police refused to interfere. "There are no Copts in the top 160 government positions and they are told that there is no promotion before converting into Islam," the report said. Coptic News said it aims to "reveal the untold stories ... which are not told by the conventional Arabic press." Khouzam spent nearly eight years in immigration custody when he first arrived in the U.S. because Egyptian officials said he had killed someone before leaving Egypt. He denied the accusation. According to reports from his supporters, the scenario happened this way: Khouzam was resisting police demands to convert to Islam, so authorities abducted his mother and said she would not be released unless he converted. He made that promise, but when he was pulled in front of a Muslim woman, to whom he was ordered to be married as part of his conversion, he resisted. The woman`s mother tried to hit him with a vase but he blocked the attack and cut a tendon in his hand. While being treated for the injury, Khouzam climbed out an open bathroom window and escaped from the hospital, running for the airport where some friends helped him get a ticket to the U.S. According to federal documents, it was confirmed by officials at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City that Khouzam arrived with a bandaged hand, a wound he blamed on a fight with the woman. She was the one who allegedly was killed, police said, an incident for which Khouzam was convicted in Egypt even though he wasn`t present. Khouzam only recently was freed from prison and started work with a Pennsylvania company before his detention on the deportation order. His arguments are being pursued by Human Rights Watch and others who argue the use of torture in Egypt is routine and well-documented. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, an agency created by Congress, lists Egypt on its watch list of countries, noting it had "a poor overall human rights record."

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