Egyptian court again postpones Baha'i case hearing

21 September 2006

CAIRO — The Supreme Administrative Court here has again postponed its hearing on the government appeal of a lower court's ruling upholding the right of a Baha'i couple to have their religion properly identified on government documents.

In a brief hearing on Saturday, 16 September 2006, the Court continued the case until 20 November in order to await the completion of an advisory report from the State Commissioner's Authority on the case.

In April, a lower administrative court ruled that the couple should be identified as Baha'is on official documents, a decision that if upheld will essentially overturn the government's policy of allowing people to choose from only the three officially recognized religions -- Islam, Christianity and Judaism -- on state documents.

The lower court's ruling provoked an outcry among fundamentalist elements in Egyptian society and the case has since gained international attention in the news media and from human rights groups.

Because they are unwilling to lie about their religion on government documents, Baha'is in Egypt are increasingly unable to gain legal access to basic citizenship rights, including employment, education, medical and financial services.

The government appealed the lower court's ruling in early May, and a court hearing was set for 19 June. However, the Court commissioner's advisory report was not submitted in time for the hearing, resulting in the delay to September 16, and now until November 20.