Duress suspected as Egyptian Christian convert reverts to Islam

Mohammad Hegazy has returned to Islam after converting to Christianity.

An Egyptian convert from Islam who fought a public battle to get his religion changed on his identification card has announced he is reverting to Islam.

Mohammed Hegazy – known after his conversion as Bishoy Armia Hegazy – sought to change his religion officially in 2007, the first Egyptian to do so, having become a Christian at the age of 16 in 1998. He suffered years of harassment and imprisonment, including torture.

Hegazy, his wife and two children moved to Germany but he was arrested in Egypt in December 2013 charged with "defamation of religion" and "protesting without permission" because he filmed clashes between Muslims and Christians. He has been in prison ever since, though a court has ordered him released on bail. According to his lawyer Karam Ghobrial, police and prison authorities have kept him in detention by losing the court order, requiring a new birth certificate and moving him secretly.

In the video, Hegazy describes Mohammad as "the chief-most among Allah's creation" and recites the Shahada, the Muslim declaration of faith which acts as a statement of allegiance to Islam.

He says: "I want nothing from this video. I have no desires. I will not appear again in the media. I will not appear again publicly."

He continues: "I say this out of my complete free will. I am under no pressures from anyone. I am not being held by any agency, nor am I under any pressure of any kind. And that's it."

However, human rights campaigners suspect Hegazy made the statement because he could not face indefinite imprisonment. Ghobrial told Morning Star News he thought Hegazy made his confession of faith because he was a terrified and broken man.

He noted Hegazy seemed stilted in the video and that the statement he gave seemed scripted.

"I personally think that he recorded this video to get out," he said.

Gobrial said of a previous visit to him in prison: "It broke my heart to see him crying at the police station today. I couldn't do anything to help him. He's lost hope in life and is thinking about suicide."