Doctors in a Cairo mental hospital are holding an Egyptian Christian against his will, telling the man he’ll be a permanent resident there until he recants his faith and returns to Islam, reports a leading monitor of Christian persecution.

Reminiscent of the tactics of Communists in the USSR who put dissidents in mental hospitals, the forced stay, according to Voice of the Martyrs, has been in effect since January. At that time, the adoptive parents of Gaser Mohammed Mahmoud, 30, committed him to the El-Khanka Hospital after learning he had converted from Islam to Christianity two years earlier.

Reports Voice of the Martyrs:

“The hospital medical committee placed Mahmoud under the care of a female physician identified only as Dr. Nevine, whom sources describe as a ‘fanatic Muslim.’ Since his forced confinement, Mahmoud has reportedly endured beatings, whippings and potentially fatal injections.”

Visiting Cairo yesterday, first lady Laura Bush praised Egypt for making political reforms and agreed those changes were being implemented at the proper pace – slowly.

“You have to be slow as you do each of these steps,” she told reporters. “You know that each step is a small step, that you can’t be quick. … I think [President Hosni Mubarak has] been very bold and wise to take the first step.”

Egyptian opposition groups, however, say the step has not been bold enough and that change is too slow.

Tomorrow, Egyptians are scheduled to vote on a constitutional amendment establishing the country’s first direct presidential elections with more than one candidate.

Persecution of Christians has been a way of life in Egypt, consisting of routine harassment of members of the Coptic Church and other believers there.

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