“I never saw any Copts spreading propaganda in Benghazi”
The relationship between Libyans and Coptic Egyptians in Benghazi has always been very good. In Benghazi, there are several churches, namely a Greek Orthodox church, a [now vacant] cathedral, and a Coptic church. I had never heard of attacks on these religious venues before the events of the last few weeks.Nor had I seen Copts spreading propaganda at the market or in other public forums to convince Muslims to convert. In any case, they should be allowed to practice their religion in our country in complete safety. I am saddened by what happened to the Copts in Benghazi. It does not reflect the tolerant spirit of the inhabitants of this city.
“The militiamen waited for them outside of a church"
We were able to meet with the Libyan Ambassador to Egypt [on March 14] and he told us that he only knew about the four Copts from Benghazi who had been sent to Tripoli [before being sent back to Egypt] through official channels in the Libyan capital. He further explained that he had no information regarding the hundred or so Copts detained by the fundamentalist militias in Benghazi. I’m referring to roughly a hundred because this is the number given by the militiamen themselves, but is this even the right number? The ambassador further asked us to provide him with a list of the detainees so he could carry out some research on them — yet this is a list of names that even we have a hard time determining with any precision.According to the four detainees who were released and went back to Egypt, in order to kidnap such a large number of Copts, the militia waited for them outside a church. Several detainees also told the lawyer of the deceased that they were tortured and humiliated. The militiamen shaved their heads [as can be seen on the video] and then tried to remove the crosses tattooed on the men’s bodies by burning them. [Editor's Note: FRANCE 24 was not able to verify this claim through independent sources, but the militiamen do mention these tattoos in the video. Most Copts have small crosses tattooed on their bodies.]We don’t know why some individuals were transferred to Tripoli, nor do we know what happened to the others. We are outraged by the attitude of the Egyptian authorities, who took a very long time to get involved. They were arrested three weeks ago now, and the Egyptian ambassador in Libya did not try to intervene to try to obtain their freedom, nor did he even ask for any explanations from the Libyan authorities.The fact that these men were arrested with religious books and objects on them does not in the least prove they were proselytizing. And even if this were the case, I don’t see what the problem is — after all, Libya, like the other Arab countries that underwent revolutions, is supposed to have gotten rid of dictatorship in favor of democracy. And, in democratic countries like those of Europe, Muslims have the right to openly promote their religion without being in the least inconvenienced.