Around 100 Egyptian Copts have been detained and reportedly tortured by Libya’s Preventive Security forces in Benghazi on charges of illegal immigration.
The detainees are suspected of trying to convert Muslims after being found with Bibles, images of Christ, and the late Pope Shenuda of Egypt’s Coptic Christians. A Libyan security official reported to AFP that none of these items were “for personal use”.
The detained Copts were reportedly tortured by police forces in BouEita prison. Police forces used acid to burn tattooed crosses off their wrists, shaved their heads, and used electricity to torture the detainees whilst they were blindfolded, according to the head of the Egyptian Union for Human Rights Naguib Gabriel.
Gabriel denied that the Egyptians detained had been proselytising in Libya, saying that even if this was true, no law in Libya or Egypt prohibits it.
He added that such cases of torture constitute international crimes committed by the Libyan Government who “abuses the Libyan Revolution”.
“A case will be filed to the UN Human Rights Council by Egyptian human rights organisations against the Libyan government,” Gabriel said.
In a press release, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party (ESDP) held the Egyptian government responsible for safeguarding the lives of Egyptian Christians arrested in Libya and demanded the government act immediately to secure their release.
Lawyer Tharwat Bekheit criticised the government’s failure to push for the release of the detained Copts. “We have been sending requests to the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign affairs to interfere. Nothing was done to get them released,” he said.
Most of the detained Copts have been released and are being deported to Egypt through the Salloum border crossing, stated Gabriel. “Five Egyptians are still detained by Libyan forces, and we are following up to secure their release,” he said.
Since the Libyan revolution, Libya’s Christian minority has expressed concerns over Islamic extremism.
In December, two Egyptian Christians were killed and two were injured after suspected Islamic extremists threw a Molotov cocktail at a Coptic-Orthodox church in western Libya, AFP reported.