More Arrests in Libya after Detention of Foreign Christians Morning Star News, February 23, 2013
Egyptian accused of distributing Christian books allegedly tortured.
Courthouse square in Benghazi, April 2011; since the fall of the Muammar Gaddafi regime, penalties for proselytism are unclear.
CAIRO, Egypt (Morning Star News) – Arrests continue of Christians accused of proselytizing in Libya, with a total of seven now known to be in custody including one reported to have been tortured, sources said.
Four expatriate Christians in the eastern coastal town of Benghazi were arrested on Feb. 10, accused of proselytizing. Libya’s Preventative Security Unit arrested the Egyptian, South African, Korean and dual Swedish-American Christians, who have yet to be officially charged.
On Feb. 13, Preventative Security officers picked up two more Egyptian Christians, and another Egyptian Christian was arrested by Feb. 16, sources said. All the detainees were being held in Benghazi. It was unclear what led to their arrests.
Preventative Security spokesman Hussein Bin Hmeid said in a statement to Reuters that the four Christians originally arrested were printing books calling for conversion to Christianity. He said the country is 100 percent Muslim and that proselytizing “affects our national security.”
Only one of the four arrested on Feb. 10, Sherif Ramses of Egypt, has been publicly identified. When Ramses was arrested, he allegedly had 30,000 Bibles in storage, a figure that Libyan police inflated to 45,000 in published statements, sources said. Ramses ran a small printing service in Benghazi and a bookstore that sold both Christian and secular books.
Sources close to the arrests told Morning Star News that Ramses has been tortured, saying he was severely bruised. Several other sources independently told Morning Star News that Preventative Security was able to get the names of other Christians in Libya from Ramses, possibly by accessing information on his cell phone. It was unclear, however, if any Christians subsequently detained had any significant links to Ramses’ work.
Preventative Security is an internal police force formed during the Libyan Revolution by regional rebel leaders.
Rumors were circulating throughout Libya about unknown others thought to be arrested.
Another wave of arrests was said to have taken place on Sunday (Feb. 17) in Tripoli. Sources in Libya reported to contacts in Egypt that no one has been able to contact these detainees, learn their location or even get an estimate of the number of those said to be arrested.
“They say it was a large group,” a source in Cairo receiving updates from Libya said. “They were supposed to be released, but there has been no word.”