Coptic Soldier’s Father Challenges Military Autopsy
On June 25, the father of an Egyptian Christian soldier, Conscript Bahaa Mikhail Silvanus, 23, learned of his son’s death, one day after Bahaa died of two gunshots to his chest at close range. The father’s grief is mixed with anger, and he adamantly insists that the results of an autopsy and military investigation into his son’s death are simply “not true.”
“They say that my son committed suicide, and no one killed him. That is not true,” the bereaved father said. “I am sure that Bahaa did not kill himself. I won’t waive the rights of my son. I’ll struggle until my last breath to reveal the truth.”
When his family came to claim his body at his office on the military base in Suez near Cairo, they found his lifeless body still seated in a chair, with two bullet holes in his chest and evidence of a sharp blow to his head. The pistol was lying at his feet. Military authorities claimed their son had committed suicide.
“How could our son have even shot himself the second time, without losing his balance and falling from the chair?” they reasoned.
They were assured that after the army’s forensic experts issued an autopsy report, an official military investigation would confirm the circumstances of their son’s death. But seven weeks later, lawyers for the grieving Silvanus family were still waiting for the autopsy and the final army investigative report.
Finally, on Aug 15, the military prosecutor admitted that the forensic report had been issued more than three weeks earlier. They were allowed to read the report, along with the military prosecution’s report, but were not permitted to have copies.
“It was a shock for us when we read these reports,” the lawyer said. “The forensic report declared there was no criminal suspicion regarding Bahaa’s death. But it didn’t even mention the sharp blow to Bahaa’s forehead. We have photos of his body in the morgue that show this.”
His family contends that the visible head wound was physical evidence that the soldier received a blow to the head, perhaps from the barrel of the gun, before an unknown assailant shot him to death inside the army post. But the official military’s report stated that Bahaa Silvanus died as a result of his own “deliberate negligence,” clearly inferring that he took his own life. This official conclusion on the soldier’s death cancelled his family’s right to collect the financial compensation awarded by the state to the families of soldiers who die during military service. The investigation was closed.
After military officials refused both of the petitions for another autopsy sent by the lawyers in August, the only remaining legal option was to file a written appeal with the Military Prosecutor General’s office. The written appeal was also denied, leaving the family with no legal options.
One Egyptian human rights activist told World Watch Monitor that he was reluctant to comment on any case under the jurisdiction of the country’s all-powerful military. “The case of Bahaa is very sensitive. It is very difficult for anyone in human rights to talk against the military,” he said, requesting that his name be withheld.
One source close to the Silvanus family told World Watch Monitor that though their son had been very positive about his experiences under his first commander in an otherwise all-Muslim battalion, his attitudes had taken a sharp downturn after a new commander took over in April.
“Since that moment, Bahaa’s impression about the military had changed. He was telling me that his new commander was dealing with him in a very bad way. Bahaa was the only Christian conscript in his unit, and he was under great pressure and discrimination.
“I was noticing that during his last holidays, he didn’t want to go again to the military, and he was very afraid,” the source said. The family’s lawyers have since learned that the commander at the time of their son’s death has since been transferred from the Suez base.
In a similar unresolved incident two years ago, the family of a Coptic soldier who died under suspicious circumstances has rejected claims by military police that he committed suicide. He had reportedly argued with another soldier who was pressuring him to convert to Islam; no one has been found accountable for his death.
Last month, another Coptic soldier was killed by a member of his army battalion, openly shot dead by a Muslim conscript who reportedly told prosecutors that he decided to kill the Coptic soldier because of a heated argument about religion during the Ramadan month of fasting. He remains under arrest waiting for prosecutors to file charges to refer his case to court.
Source: World Watch Monitor
Father, we pray for the family of Bahaa Mikhail Silvanus as they continue to grieve his loss and seek justice to clear their son’s name, that they would know the wisdom, peace and comfort of their Savior. We pray for justice that seems to be lacking in his case and others, and we pray for an end to these senseless killings in the military. We pray for protection over Christians who are serving in Muslim units, and we pray also for them that the presence of Christ in their lives will be apparent by their exemplary service. While Satan would have us believe this situation is hopeless, we know that You are there, working in the hearts and minds of many, turning their hearts toward Christ. We pray for those living in the bondage of false religion, that they would be set free to follow Christ. Thank You for the sure hope that Your church is growing in Egypt, and in the world beyond. In the Name of Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. Amen.