• EGYPT \ Sep 04, 2007
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    Egyptian Christians facing deportation
Egyptian Christians facing deportation If returned to Egypt, they fear their Christian faith and statements concerning the punishments they fear will prompt the government, which formally acknowledges Islam's Quran as its source of law, to resort to torture as has been documented in other cases.

In fact, a U.S. District Court judge in another case on which WND has reported ordered the deportation of another Egyptian Christian blocked, concluding that Egypt's diplomatic assurances it won't torture Christians aren't reassuring, and the man in question "most assuredly has a right not to be tortured."

The case involving the Zacharys is convoluted, their supporters say, involving a mistake on their original visas allowing them into the United States that now means they apparently cannot obtain permanent status.

Complicating factors even further is Onsy Zachary's criminal conviction for assault, a case that his appeal attorney says has solid grounds for a request that the court reopen the case, even though he's almost completed his jail term.

The Zacharys already have earned the support of the National Center for Reason and Justice, the Orthodox Christians for Life, and other groups.

"We believe that the accusation against Mr. Zachary was manufactured by a relative whose main objective was to get Mr. Zachary deported. … Upon release, Mr. Zachary and his wife will be deported to Egypt where they face imprisonment and torture," wrote Robert B. Chattele, the group's executive director.

"I call upon the Honorable George W. Bush, president of the United States, to intervene in this matter and by executive order, right the injustice perpetrated against Mr. Zachary and his wife," added Rev. Deacon John Protopapas, national director of Orthodox Christians for Life.

"Because they are refugees from radical Islam, both face terrible persecution and possible death at the hands of anti-Christian fanatics if they are forcibly deported to Egypt," he said.

Protopapas said the Zacharys fled Egypt years ago because of persecution from Muslim fundamentalists.

Zachary's supporters note Zachary escaped from Egypt in 1970 after he, as a member of the Egyptian military, was imprisoned and tortured then for refusing to convert to Islam. The couple arrived in the United States in 1998, only to run into trouble with their visa status.

A short time later, John Swomley, Zachary's criminal defense attorney, told WND, came the allegations he assaulted a relative. Swomley told WND there already is a deportation order in effect, and that the couple may end up being returned to Egypt before he can complete his work on an appeal of Zachary's case.

"Even if I were successful in getting an appeal, they still could be deported," he said.

Zachary already is confined to a wheelchair and they are "terrified of being sent back to Egypt," according to a petition on the website promoting the couple's continued stay in the United States.

"This elderly couple are good people, devout Christians who just want to live out the rest of their lives together in peace and safety here in the U.S.," the petition says.

The website warns that as Coptic Christians who have talked about the persecution of Christians in Egypt, they would be considered to have committed the "unforgivable" if returned to Egypt.

"It is common knowledge that such a person, once returned to Egypt, will be jailed for his 'crimes against the country,'" the website said. It noted that a government report said 81 detainees were tortured to death inside Egyptian police stations between 2000 and 2004, and 21 more victims died under such circumstances between 2004 and 2005.

As WND reported earlier, a human rights organization given special consultative status by the United Nations wants a U.S. judge to make an order halting the deportation of Sameh Khouzam, another Egyptian Christian, permanent because of the likelihood he would be tortured.

The request comes in the form of a court pleading from the Washington-based American Center for Law and Justice, whose European affiliate, the European Centre for Law and Justice in Strasbourg, France, has been given "special consultative status" from the United Nations.

The groups are asking a federal court in Pennsylvania to protect the human rights of Khousam, 38, a Coptic Christian whose case has been ongoing for nearly a decade already.

As WND reported earlier, a federal judge has ordered his deportation temporarily delayed.

The brief filed by the groups for the application of the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which instructs that no state shall extradite a person to another state "where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture."

The brief notes that a number of human rights organizations have warned against relying on diplomatic statements regarding torture, because nations that do torture most frequently deny it.

In an Egypt's case, the government's use of torture has been described as "habitual."