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March 21, 2013 11:09 pm

Coptic Christians Describe Torture at Hands of Libyan Extremists

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Coptic Christian Church, the St. Bishoy Monastery, located between Cairo and Alexandria. More than 8 million Coptic Christians live in Egypt. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Dozens of Coptic Christians claimed they were tortured while being held in Libya by Islamic militiamen on charges of proselytizing.

“They shaved our heads. They threatened to sever our heads in implementation of Islamic Shariah (law) while showing us swords,” said 26-year-old Amgad Zaki, who spoke to the Associated Press in a telephone interview from his home after returning to Egypt earlier this month.

“I was taken to clean a bathroom, and the man pushed my head inside the toilet and sat on me,” he said. “I was dying every day, and at one point I thought death is better than this.”

Islamic militiamen arrested the Coptic Christians—who were working in Libya—in late February during a raid on a Benghazi market. They were held on charges of proselytizing because the militiamen had found Christian materials among their belongings.

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One Egyptian, Ragaa Abdallah, died while in custody; his body was returned to Egypt and buried earlier this week. His family claims he was tortured to death, but the Egyptian Foreign Ministry claims he likely died of natural causes related to his diabetes and heart ailments.

The incident has strained relations between Libya and Egypt. Egypt’s Coptic leader, Pope Tawadros II, met with Libya’s ambassador to Egypt last weekend to discuss the situation and the fate of the Egyptian Christians still being held in Libya, Ahram Online reported. Egypt has reportedly offered to swap prisoners in order to secure the Christians’ release.

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