Sherif Ramses and some of the Christian materials he is accused of distributing in Libya
Word comes from The Voice of the Martyrs that Egyptian Christian Ezzat Hakim has died in custody in Libya.
Hakim was one of four Egyptians arrested and imprisoned in Bengahzi following the early February arrest of four foreigners on proselytism charges.
The orginal group of four included Egyptian Sherif Ramses (whom I met in Bengahzi nearly two years ago).Those arrested with him included a South African, a South Korean, and a Swedish American. Libyan authorities claimed Ramses was the leader of a Bible distribution operation which included the circulation of thousands of Christian books and literature.
In fact, Ramses is no stanger to Libyan officials--he operated a bookstore in Benghazi and had been arrested and questioned before. Authorities knew he had the books, and some of them felt he was doing nothing wrong by cirulating them.
When police arrested Ramses, they confiscated his phone. It contained the names and phone numbers of other Egyptians, and four of those listed--including Ezzat Hakim--were arrested simply because Ramses knew them and had placed calls to them.
All of those arrested in this case were transferred form Benghazi to Tripoli on Feb. 25. Some of them were reportedly tortured. Officials with Libya's criminal investigation unit said Ezzat had suffered form chest pains and breathing problems last week so, he was taken to the hospital and returned to prison in fine health. They said on the morning of March 10, he experienced dyspnea, fell on his head, and died.
Sources familiar with the case say prison conditions in Tripoli and Benghazi are horrid. Ezzat's wife said he suffered from asthma. Perhaps torture, combined with abyssmal conditions led to his weakened condition and caused his death.
Ezzat shouldn't have been imprisoned in the first place because there was no evidence that he had done anything wrong. This injustice happened simply because Libyan extremists declared him guilty by association.
Pray for Ezzat's family--that God will encourage them at this difficult time.
Pray the others will be freed from prison. Their only crime is sharing the Gospel in a country that should be dedicated to embracing democracy, openess, and freedom. After all, isn't that why the French and American governments helped Libyans free themselves from dictatorship?
So far it seems Christians are suffering worse under this government than they did under Muammar Gaddafi.