Mohammed Hegazy, an Egyptian convert from Islam who goes by the Christian name Bishoy Armeya Boulos, was sentenced to five years in prison on June 18, 2014 after he filmed clashes between Muslims and Christians in central Egypt. He is accused of filming a demonstration without obtaining government permission, a misdemeanor crime that typically carries a maximum sentence of six months. Bishoy served six months while waiting for conviction after his Dec. 4 arrest.
The true reason for the extreme prison sentence most likely lies in Bishoy’s history. In 2007, Bishoy, then Mohammed Hegazy, petitioned the Egyptian government to change his official religious status, an unprecedented move in a thoroughly Islamic society. Bishoy converted to Christianity from Islam in 1999 at age 17. His public request to change his religious status generated death threats and forced Bishoy and his family into hiding.
After spending several years in hiding, Bishoy’s wife and two children were able to leave the country for asylum in Germany. Bishoy, however, chose to remain in Egypt, knowing that if he left, he’d never be allowed back in his home country. His own experience in hiding and being constantly followed by police made him passionate for the rights of converts to Christianity. He spends his days documenting abuses against Egyptian Christians and advocating for fair treatment.
When he was arrested, Bishoy was in southern Egypt filming clashes that resulted after Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi was ousted from office in July 2013. Hundreds of Christians were attacked, some kidnapped and thousands of churches and Christian businesses throughout the country were looted and destroyed.
Bishoy’s lawyer told World Watch Monitor that Bishoy is in good condition, though police have questioned him about his religious status, which is totally unrelated to the charge.
Bishoy and his lawyer have filed an appeal against the conviction.