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Egyptian Christian dies after torture in Libyan jail: report

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Ezzat Hakim Atallah died while in custody of Libyan authorities, according to relatives. (Courtesy: MidEast Christian News)Copyright 2009

An Egyptian Christian who was arrested in Libya and charged with proselytizing has died after being tortured by his captors, according to a report.

Ezzat Hakim Atallah, who was one of dozens of Egyptian Copts arrested last month in Benghazi, was awaiting a court appearance in Tripoli when his family learned he had died. He had been held by the Libyan Preventive Security since Feb. 25, and had been hospitalized March 6 before being brought back to a cell, according to family members.

Effat Hakim Atallah, the victim’s brother, told MidEast Christian News his brother was originally arrested Feb. 13 while he was at his job in a mobile phone shop in Benghazi. Several Egyptian merchants from a surrounding market were also arrested, allegedly because their stalls were adorned with Christian symbols, according to witnesses.

Atallah's wife was able to visit him three days after his arrest and found him in a state of severe fatigue and with bruises and cuts, according to Effat Hakim Atallah. At that time, he said he had already been subjected to physical and psychological torture in a bid to force a confession from him, he said.

According to Atallah's wife, he was arrested because his telephone number was found on a telephone of another suspect who had been arrested for possession of Christian books.

Kamal Ramzi, Ezzat’s brother-in-law, said Christians who have emigrated to Libya in search of work have been subject to arrest and brutality at the hands of the Libyan government and Islamic groups, and complained that the Egyptian government has been silent on the issue.

Ramzi said the family sent a lawyer from Cairo to Libya last week, and he went to the Egyptian Consulate to discuss the release of Ezzat and four other Copts, all of whom say they have been tortured.

The family learned of Atallah's death from the lawyer, according to Ramzi. The family, through the Egyptian Consulate in Libya, has asked for an autopsy to determine the cause of death. They have not received a response, Ramzi said.

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