Egypt Court Bans Egyptian Copt From East Jerusalem

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CAIRO - A Cairo court has barred an Egyptian Coptic Christian from going to Israel to pray in Arab East Jerusalem, citing the danger caused by Israel's "oppressive occupation" of Palestinian land, court sources said on Monday.

The Interior Ministry refused to give Gamal Amgad Mikhail a permit to visit Israel last year, and the Egyptian Copt made a court appeal against the ruling, the sources said.

The Cairo administrative court cited "Israel's oppressive occupation of Palestinian territory" and a ban by Egypt's Coptic Christian Pope Shenouda on Copts praying in churches in Arab East Jerusalem while it remains under Israeli occupation.

"It is the state's right to prevent citizens from travelling to a country where acts of killing, gunfire and explosions take place," the court said in its ruling.

The government began tightening restrictions on Egyptians wanting to visit Israel after a right-wing Israeli government came to power in 1996 and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process started to falter.

Egyptians who try to travel without a special permit from the Interior Ministry risk being turned back at Cairo airport or Egypt's land borders with Israel in the Sinai Peninsula. Coptic Christians, who make up around 10 percent of Egypt's 70 million population, risk excommunication if they violate Shenouda's ban.

Egypt recalled its ambassador to Tel Aviv in November 2000, accusing Israel of using excessive force to quell the intifada.



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