Egyptian Christian Medhat Ishaq was arrested in a satellite town of Cairo on Sunday (9 August) for giving away Bibles to passersby.

According to the weekly Watani newspaper, the 35-year-old Copt was standing in front of the Arabia shopping mall in 6 October town when passersby stopped him and summoned the police.

Ishaq was accused of exploiting religion in speech and printed material, in an alleged attempt to persuade Muslims to join the Christian religion. Charged with promoting sedition and harming national unity, he was ordered to be held in custody for four days in a preliminary decision by the prosecution, who confiscated the nine Bibles in his possession.

Ishaq’s family in Beni Ebeid, in the Upper Egypt governate of Minya, told Watani that a lawyer had been found to defend their son, who contested the reason for his detention. The family insisted that such serious charges had not been used before in Egypt against anyone for possessing Bibles.

“We have only heard of the confiscation of Bibles in Wahhabi Saudi Arabia,” they said.

Arabic Bibles are printed legally in predominantly Muslim Egypt, where at least 10 per cent of the population is Christian.