By BosNewsLife Middle East Service
CAIRO, EGYPT (BosNewsLife)-- A former Muslim who converted to Christianity in Egypt was in hiding Sunday, March 8, after Islamic lawyers demanded that he be executed on charges of "apostasy," Egyptian Christians and rights investigators monitoring the trial said.
Middle East Concern (MEC), an advocacy group with closely follows the case, told BosNewsLife that Maher Ahmad El-Mo’otahssem Bellah El-Gohary has been trying to obtain identification papers with Christianity designated as his religion, despite death threats.
"Maher is involved in a legal battle to officially change his religious registration from Islam
to Christianity so that both he and his daughter may be identified as Christians," MEC said.
However at a trial on February 22 some 20 Islamic lawyers strongly opposed that move, MEC and other sources said.
Egyptian law allows Muslim lawyers to become involved in a court case if they believe the outcome will run counter to Islamic law "harmful" to society. "These lawyers described Maher as an apostate from Islam and asked that he be sentenced to death," MEC said.
He had planned to obtain papers authorizing attorney Nabil Ghobreyal to act as his representation in court, but staff members at the registry office assulted him, MEC said.
Judge Hamdy Yasin was reportedly forced to adjourn the case until March 28 because El-Gohary did not obtain the necessary papers. “I am now in a position where I can’t do anything else [than] going to court despite the danger," he said in published remarks. "I believe God will protect me."
He chose to follow Jesus Christ in 1973, MEC said. "His legal challenge is motivated by concerns for his daughter. About one year from now, at age 16, she will be issued her national Identity Card and the religious registration will follow that of her father who is still identified as Muslim."
MEC said his daughter must attend Islamic classes at school "despite having been raised as a Christian." Also, Maher does not want her to be subject to Islamic personal status law which, MEC said, "would include denying her the right to marry a Christian."
In a statement, released by the group, Egyptian Christians said they have been urging "prayers" from supporters that "Maher and his daughter will know the presence and peace of Jesus each day" and that, "the case will be successful, allowing them and other [converts] to have their identity cards changed."
They also said they hope that, "all officials involved will be exposed to the claims of Jesus and be drawn to His offer of love and life."