EIPR Calls upon the Public Prosecutor to Immediately Release all Shi’ite Suspects... The Interior Ministry’s Custodianship Over Citizens’ Beliefs and Its Interrogation of Individual Conscience Must End

Press Release

14 October 2010

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) expressed its dismay at the Egyptian government’s ongoing policy of punishing and discriminating against individuals because of their religious beliefs. Several media reports have reported in the past few days that a group of Shi’ites, both Egyptians and non-nationals, had been arrested and questioned by the Supreme State Security Prosecutor because of their religious beliefs, information confirmed by the EIPR. The EIPR asked the Public Prosecutor to immediately intervene to secure the release of the suspects and put an end to successive Interior Ministry campaigns of harassment against religious minorities in Egypt.

“The Interior Minister continues to punish individuals for their religious beliefs, imposing police custodianship over society. This is a flagrant violation of all international conventions upholding freedom of religion and belief, not to mention the Egyptian Constitution, which guarantees the same right to all people,” said Adel Ramadan, EIPR's Legal Officer. “This isn’t the first time that people have been arrested because their religious beliefs differ from the majority. Other Shi’ites, Qur’anist and Ahmadis have also been detained," he continued.

The EIPR however was unable to ascertain the charges against the Shi'ite suspects or the conditions of their detention and arrest.  AFP quoted a security source as saying that 24 people were arrested, a number confirmed by al-Shorouk; meanwhile, al-Masry al-Yom and al-Dostour reported that the Supreme State Security Prosecutor had ordered 12 suspects held on remand on 12 October for 15 days pending an investigation. According to the media reports, the charges against the detainees are connected to the rejection of the caliphates of Abu Bakr, Umar Ibn al-Khattab and Uthman Ibn Affan, as well as differences over a hadith and a refusal to recognize al-Bukhari’s hadith collection. If these charges are correct, they represent a suppression of belief and a blatant violation of freedom of religion and belief.

“No prosecutor has the right to question individuals about what they believe, their differing version of a hadith or an opinion at odds with the views of official clerics," said Soha Abdelaty, Deputy Director at the EIPR. "This is all the more reason why the Public Prosecutor must intervene immediately to release all the Shi’ite detainees, drop the charges against them and stop the Interior Ministry from acting as the self-proclaimed guardian of individuals’ minds and their beliefs,” she continued.