Lawyer of alleged Muslim convert says she’s proud to be Christian

A lawyer representing Kamilia Shehata, the wife of a Coptic priest rumored to be detained by the church for converting to Islam, said his client is proud to be a Christian.

Lawyer Naguib Gabriel, chariman of the Egyptian Union of Human Rights Organizations (EUHRO), who is also the legal advisor for Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church, said he had met with Kamilia and her son before Easter celebrations, and that he obtained a notary authorization to represent her and her husband.

Shehata, the wife of Minya priest Tedaous Samaan, disappeared in June 2010 for days. Her absence sparked protests by Christians who thought she was kidnapped by Muslims to force her convert to Islam. She was later discovered to have left home for a friend's house due to disagreements with her husband, but disappeared in July once again.

Muslims, in turn, have been staging protests demanding the release of Shehata, whom they allege has been detained by the church for converting.

But Gabriel, during an interivew with private satellite channel ONTV, said Kamilia had told him she was proud to be Christian. According to the lawyer, Shehata said the whole issue started when she had a conflict with her husband, after which she stayed at a friend's house before relatives intervened to solve the problem. She said she now lives quietly with her husband and son.

However, an anonymous church source reported this week that her husband, Samaan, had himself been missing since January.

"She authorized me [to speak on her behalf] as she felt scared by media reports concerning her fate and the baseless protests provoked by her disappearance," Gabriel said.

But he declined to disclose Shehata's location, denying rumors that she was being detained at a church.

A number of news websites displayed a photo of Gabriel sitting with Shehata and her husband, but he declined to say where the photo had been taken.

Recent media reports said Kamilia was not found at her residence.

Earlier this week, the Orthodox Church declined to receive a prosecution summons asking for Shehata to appear and comment on her situation. Gabriel said the prosecution aimed to obtain proof that Shehata had not been detained, and did not intend to ask her to announce her current faith.

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