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CAIRO (RNS) — In the early hours of Nov. 23, seven plainclothes police officers arrived at the home of Ramy Kamel, a 33-year-old tailor and civil rights advocate for the Coptic community in Egypt.
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At 1:45 a.m., a squad from Egypt's Homeland Security — which has arrested hundreds of community activists, street demonstrators and independent journalists in recent months — confiscated Kamel's books, laptop computer, digital camera and mobile phone.
Egyptian and international human rights groups say the security officers beat Kamel and proceeded to interrogate him without his lawyer present.
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The following day, the Coptic activist known for advocating for Egypt's urban poor and rural peasants was charged with joining and financing a terrorist group and disrupting public peace.
According to the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, a nonprofit that monitors the compliance of international human rights law throughout the Arab region, the Supreme State Security Prosecution in Cairo's Fifth Settlement neighborhood also charged Kamel with inciting public opinion against the state and using social media to exacerbate tensions between Muslims and Christians.
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The Coptic community, thought to number at least 15 million in a nation of 110 million, is outraged and worried.
“Ramy Kamel has been the voice of the weakest, most marginalized group in our society, especially in Upper Egypt,” said Makarios Lahzy, a Cairo-based attorney who called for Kamel’s immediate release at a U.N.-sponsored global minority rights conference in Geneva last week.
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Ramy Kamel, from left, an unidentified monk and Hanna Wassfi on Dec. 15, 2018, at St. Samuel the Confessor Monastery in the Desert of Minya Governorate, Egypt. Kamel was there to attend a Mass for the Martyrs' Souls and their memory after two buses carrying Coptic Christians were ambushed on Nov. 2, 2017, as they left the monastery, killing seven of the pilgrims and wounding 19. Photo by...
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