Muslim convert endures trial and is released on bail

By January 29, 2009

Egypt (MNN) — The trial of Egyptian convert Martha Samuel Makkar wasn't limited to a courtroom. Open Doors USA reports that the Muslim-born believer was arrested on December 13 while trying to flee anti-Christian hostility and has faced persecution ever since.

The most recent attack came from the judge presiding over her hearing. Makkar's attorney told Compass News Direct that after questioning Makkar extensively, the judge talked with her alone.

"He said, 'Nobody changes from Muslim to Christian — you are a Muslim,'" attorney Nadia Tawfig recounts. "And she said, 'No, I am a Christian.' He told her, 'If I had a knife now, I would kill you'".

According to Tawfig, Judge Abdelaa Hashem questioned Makkar extensively about her faith. Makkar affirmed her Christian beliefs, explained her reasons for converting, and rejected the judge's claims that converting from Islam to Christianity was impossible. Makkar was charged with forging identification documents. Egyptian law doesn't allow for legal change of one's religion on identification papers.

Twenty-four-year-old Makkar was arrested while trying to flee Egypt with her family. Makkar says that since she converted to Christianity, members of her extended family threatened her continuously and vowed to kill her. Compass reports that the family tried to flee to Russia, but Makkar's passport was listed under her Christian name. Since that name was on a list of people prohibited from leaving the country, Egyptian authorities arrested Makkar at the airport.

"They did not [arrest her] to apply the law; they did it because of hate for Muslims converting to Christianity," said Helmy Guirguis, president of the UK Coptic Association, a human rights group. "They had both [her original and Christian] names and maybe a picture before she reached the airport."

In a continued attempt to force Makkar to return to Islam, police beat and tortured her. She also reports sexual abuse and demeaning behavior. Makkar's children, ages four and two, were denied food, and her husband was held under "emergency security." He remained in prison until January 19. Based on Makkar's testimony, authorities later released her husband, along with two men accused of helping Makkar obtain false papers. Authorities later took Makkar to the Al-Qanata prison, where she faced more persecution.

"One of them kicked her and tried to kill her," Tawfig said. "One took the Bible and threw it on the floor, pushed her and tried to make her go back to Islam. But she is strong."

Makkar was briefly released Jan. 22 on a bail of 3,000 Egyptian pounds (US$540) but was rearrested after prosecutors filed an appeal. Since the appeal failed, Makkar was allowed to return home to her husband and children this weekend pending trial. Tawfig and two other lawyers will represent Makkar before a different judge, but Tawfig isn't hopeful for less of a bias.

"I think it will be the same, because all judges are Muslim and are naturally upset about that [conversion]."

Pray that God's name and the truth of the Gospel will be spread through this situation. Pray that Makkar will not waver in her faith.


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