Egypt Arrests Three Christian Rights Activists

Egyptian police over the weekend detained three members of a Christian rights group who were reportedly investigating the death of a Christian man allegedly killed by Egyptian police.

Pre-dawn raids in two Cairo homes captured Wagih Yakob, 45, spokesman and lawyer of the Middle East Christian Association (MECA), and another member of the rights group, reported the group's president Nader Fawzy from MECA's Toronto headquarters, according to Reuters.

Later that same day, Mamdouh Azmy, another lawyer for the group, was detained from his office in Alexandria.

"They haven't done anything at all," Fawzy told Reuters. "The government is trying to stop us from working in Egypt."

The U.S. Copts Association said the recent arrest was likely caused by the men's investigation into reports that a Coptic worker in Cairo was thrown from his balcony by two Egyptian police after he refused to pay them extortion money, according to WorldNetDaily.

The association's report said soon after the Coptic worker's fall, the Egyptian police had reported the death as suicide.

Days before Sunday's arrest, two of men's colleagues were released after completing a 90-day detention. The organization's president in Egypt, Adel Fawzy Faltas, 61, and MECA member Peter Ezzat, 25, had been accused of insulting Islam, destroying Egypt's reputation, owning a gun without a license and being a threat to national security during their three-month interrogation, according to the Compass Direct news agency. They were released, however, without charge.

Two of the three arrested activists have been issued 15-day detentions, Compass reported.

Egypt's population of 80 million is about 90 percent Muslim and only about 10 percent Christian. Although the percentage of Christians in Egypt is small, it represents the largest Christian population in the Middle East.

The Middle East Christian Association's mission statement calls for secularism, equality with full citizenship for Christians living in the Middle East.

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