Foreign Ministry in talks over release of 4 Coptic detainees in Libya

An unnamed diplomat said Tuesday that the Foreign Ministry is in daily contact with four Egyptian detainees in Libya accused of preaching, according to Turkish Anadolu news agency.
“Our consul visits the remaining four every day and there are no complaints of ill-treatment,” said the diplomat on the condition of anonymity.
Libyan authorities arrested dozens of Egyptian Copts last month in Benghazi on charges of preaching Christianity and illegally entering the country. The arrests were amid protests and clashes with Muslim residents in Benghazi and Misrata, who also attacked Coptic churches. 
All but four of those arrested were released by Libyan authorities, according to Assistant Foreign Minister for Consular Affairs Ali al-Ashry.
On Tuesday, Ashry told the Shura Council that 50 of the 55 Egyptians originally arrested had been freed. 
Anadolu reported that one of the prisoners, Ezzat Atallah, had died of natural causes while detained, whereas 20 other detainees had had immediately returned to their jobs in Benghazi.
Ashry said the incident does not reflect a new trend of persecution against Egyptians.
“There is no discrimination against Egyptians in Libya. An Italian church was also attacked,” he added. “And Libyan [officials] apologized for the attack on the Egyptian churches in Misrata and Benghazi.”
Ashry added that “[Egypt] must show some consideration [because] a priest confessed to [trying to convert] a Libyan girl.”
He said the Libyan prime minister showed willingness to find solutions to problems Egyptians face in Libya, including new visa restrictions for Egyptian visitors. “The visa requirement for the residents of Matrouh Governorate is for security reasons,” he said. “We are forming a joint committee next month to resolve all problems.” 
Some of the freed detainees testified in front of the Shura Council and said they had not been humiliated or mistreated in any way.
The Shura Council’s Human Rights Committee Chairman Ihab al-Kharrat asked that lawyers be appointed to defend Egyptians abroad and for better laws to protect workers.
MP Reda al-Hefnawy criticized the Foreign Ministry for reacting too slowly. “The ministry must not wait for official charges to be pressed before it moves,” he said.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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