Fresh call for Egypt to release Christian convert journalist Bishoy Boulos

By Antony Bushfield
There's a fresh call for Egypt to release a Christian journalist who reported about attacks on churches after the country's president
pardoned a group of foreign reporters.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced the release of two Al Jazeera journalists who were jailed after reporting unrest, but there was no news on Bishoy Boulos.The Christian convert remains behind bars after reporting attacks against churches.He is also known by his former Muslim name, Mohamed Hegaz,y and was arrested on December 4, 2013 in the Egyptian city of Minya.Release International, which serves persecuted Christians around the world, is calling for his immediate release.

"It's great news that high-profile journalists were set free," said Chief Executive Paul Robinson."But Bishoy Boulos remains in jail for reporting on attacks against Christians - and for asserting his claim to be a Christian. Egypt must set Bishoy free and deliver on its promise to guarantee full religious freedom."Security services claim he was working for The Way TV, a Coptic, Christian-owned, US-based religious television channel.He's accused of contributing to a 'false image' that there was violence against Christians in Minya which would "harm the national interests of the state".
Mr Robinson added: "Bishoy's continued detention probably has more to do with his earlier conversion from Islam than to any alleged offence connected with reporting."Release rejects the charge that reporting church burnings somehow created a 'false image' of the troubles facing Christians in Egypt.
"Minya has been the site of numerous well-documented attacks on Christians, church buildings and Christian-owned properties. A fact-finding visit by Release International in 2013 confirmed reports that scores of churches had been burned."According to Bishoy's lawyer, his client has been badly beaten in Tora prison, as well as being dragged across a concrete floor. His head has been shaved, a punishment normally reserved for violent criminals.He is now also awaiting trial for a blasphemy charge after he attempted to change his religious identity from Muslim to Christian on his official ID card.Release has launched the campaign #everyright to call on the Egyptian government to make good its pledge of religious freedom for all, which is guaranteed in the constitution.

"The continued persecution of Bishoy Boulous reveals two things," said Paul Robinson. "The authorities are reluctant to face the truth about continuing attacks against Christians, and converts to Christianity remain at serious risk despite the country's new constitution, which is supposed to protect religious freedom.

"Unless there is a clear mechanism to enforce the rights of the country's Christian minority, those rights are likely to remain every bit as theoretical as they have been in the past."President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi pardoned 100 prisoners, including TV journalists from Al Jazeera, last Wednesday.