Christian convert unlawfully imprisoned in Egypt denied medical treatment as health fails

Chris McGrath/Getty Images
Chris McGrath/Getty Images

An unlawfully detained Christian convert awaiting trial for more than three years in Egypt has been denied medical treatment despite his deteriorating health.

On Dec. 15, 2021, Yemeni refugee Abdulbaqi Saeed Abdo was arrested inside his home after Cairo police stormed his property. During the raid, no one was shown necessary legal warrants or required paperwork, and authorities locked Abdo’s children and wife away in a room.

“He was not told the reason for his arrest,” said a Coptic lawyer and rights activist who has worked on Abdo’s case for several years and spoke with Global Christian Relief on the condition of anonymity. “They did not allow him to contact a lawyer. They refused to show any official papers or answer any questions. They searched the house and seized their laptops, phones and documents.”

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After the arrest, Abdo’s wife went to several police stations asking about his status but was unable to locate him. For more than two weeks, the family was unable to obtain any new information until they received a call identifying which prison Abdo was housed in and were told they wouldn't be allowed to visit.

Abdo was placed in a high-security underground prison in Giza and brought before prosecuting lawyers without a defense attorney. He was first accused of being an apostate, then later of proselytizing and contempt of religion. Abdo was eventually charged with joining a terrorist group, contempt of Islam, and discrimination against Islam.

Since his arrest, Abdo has been subjected to multiple rights violations, including frequent interrogations by the prosecution, and being forced to sign documents that he did not fully understand. His detention has been lengthened three times by the courts, most recently on April 6, during rulings that were decided without his presence.

“Abdo has exceeded the maximum limit of pretrial detention allowed by our criminal codes,” said his attorney. “His continued imprisonment constitutes unlawful detention.”

Abdo’s poor health has reportedly deteriorated further while in prison, as authorities have failed to provide him with adequate care for his heart and liver conditions. In April, he was denied medical treatment after reporting chest pains.

He has also been locked away in the prison ward reserved for the most severe criminals, where he has dealt with beatings and threats.

An Arabic teacher, Abdo first became a Christian in 2008 in Yemen. He practiced his faith in secret for several years, concerned by the dangers of leaving Islam in the country. However, as a passionate follower of Jesus, he used his skills to translate the Bible and other Christian literature into the local Arabic dialect.

In 2013, Abdo’s community learned of his conversion, and persecution immediately followed. He was fired from his job and his car was damaged. His house was set on fire, causing the death of his first wife and injury to one of his sons.

Afraid for his family’s safety, he and his five children moved to Egypt, and applied for asylum and refugee status. Due to Egyptian law, Abdo was unable to change his religion to Christianity on official papers and ID cards, leading to mistrust with the church.

Abdo’s arrest followed an appearance on a Christian TV channel where he discussed his conversion and the persecution faced by Christians in Yemen. He was also involved with Facebook groups for Christian converts.

Global Christian Relief (GCR) is America’s leading watchdog organization focused on the plight of persecuted Christians worldwide. In addition to equipping the Western church to advocate and pray for the persecuted, GCR works in the most restrictive countries to protect and encourage Christians threatened by faith-based discrimination and violence.

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