U.S. adds Egypt to worst religious freedom violators

Associated Press writer William C. Mann reports:

A government agency's annual report on violations of religious rights added Egypt on Thursday to the list of the world's 14 worst violators.


The situation there for religious minorities, especially Coptic Christians, has deteriorated markedly, even since former President Hosni Mubarak resigned in February, the report said.

China also is on the list of worst violators, compiled by the Commission on International Religious Freedom, and in his opening remarks as he released the report, commission Chairman Leonard Leo accused China of trying to hack into the commission's emails.


"They're trying awfully hard to read our private emails," Leo said. "So let me, if I may, take a brief moment to address these esteemed authorities publicly: For your reading enjoyment, you can go to our website and see all of our reports on your government.

"It's ... and I'm sure you will find what you need."

The others on the list of "countries of particular concern" are repeats from last year: Myanmar, also known as Burma, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

The Egypt report said the commission was "acutely aware that the success of Egypt's current political transition depends on its full respect for the rule of law, including respect for fundamental human rights, of which religious freedom is critical."

The report said the government "engaged in and tolerated religious freedom violations" before and after Mubarak's departure.

"In his waning months, religious freedom conditions were rapidly deteriorating, and since his departure, we've seen nothing to indicate that these conditions have improved," the report said.

Because of the new designation, the report recommended that the U.S. take money from aid to Egypt earmarked for military use and use it "to enhance physical protection for Copts and other religious minorities.The report also includes annually a watch list of countries the commission considers to require close monitoring because of violations committed or tolerated by their governments. This year's list was the same as last year's except for the movement of Egypt onto the "countries of particular concern" list. Those still on the watch list are Afghanistan, Belarus, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Laos, Russia, Somalia, Tajikistan, Turkey and Venezuela.

Congress established the commission in 1998 to compile the reports for use by the president, the secretary of state, and the House and Senate.


As it has in previous years, the commission complained that the Obama administration, as the Bush administration before it, ignores its advice.

State Department spokeswoman Heidi Bronke Fulton denied that.

"We certainly take the USCIRF recommendations into account when we designate our own list of Countries of Particular Concern for violations of religious freedom."