TORONTO – A Canadian who was sentenced to death in absentia Wednesday in Cairo over an anti-Islam movie that caused deadly riots in parts of the Muslim world said he’s terrified of being kidnapped and spirited to Egypt.
In an interview with The Canadian Press, Nader Fawzy denied any involvement in the “Innocence of Muslims,” saying the Egyptian government has long been out to get him because of his Coptic Christian activism.
“Of course, I’m worried about this death penalty,” Fawzy said.
“Who will give me guarantees that the Egyptian government will not try to kidnap me, to take me to Egypt?”
Fawzy, 53, of Toronto, was one of seven Egyptian Coptic Christians convicted and sentenced to death Wednesday along with a Florida pastor for the low-budget movie.
A spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Ottawa had been in contact with Cairo but did not elaborate.
“We have been working with Egyptian authorities on this issue, and will continue to do so,” Rick Roth said.
The initial charges against Fawzy were brought in September during a wave of public outrage in Egypt over the amateur film, which was produced by an Egyptian-American Copt.
The situation in Egypt is particularly precarious now as the Islamic government clashes with more Liberal forces, and arresting him would be a victory for the regime, he said.
Even without a kidnapping, Fawzy said the Egyptian action has severely limited his ability to travel to any country which might detain him and extradite him to his native country.
“They stopped my freedom to move,” he said.
Fawzy said he planned to file a lawsuit against the Egyptian government in Canada for what he said was a wrongful prosecution.
“Let them give me one (piece of evidence) that I had anything to do with that.”
Fawzy, a jewelry-store manager and president of an international Coptic-rights organization, came to Canada in 2002 from Sweden. He lost his Egyptian citizenship when he became a Swedish citizen in 1992, he said.
Egyptian authorities have had it in for him since 2007, when he published a book on anti-Coptic sentiment in Egypt called “The Persecuted,” and he filed a lawsuit against the Cairo government for riots in 2000 that left 23 Copts dead.
Five members of his organization — arrested in 2007 — named Fawzy as the author of the book and lawsuit instigator, which prompted Cairo to request an Interpol arrest warrant for him.
In September, Fawzy held a news conference in which he called for police protection and for Ottawa’s help in having his name cleared.
Fawzy said Wednesday that no one from the government has talked to him, and said he never received any police protection.
“Now, as a Canadian, I’m convicted for a crime I didn’t do.”
A government official said they “reached out” to Fawzy but did not hear back from him.
Fawzy said he writes articles in various newspapers and is a Coptic activist. Coptic Christians — who make up most of Egypt’s Christian minority, around 10 per cent of the country’s 83 million — complain of state discrimination.
However, Fawzy said he is not a movie maker and knows none of the others convicted personally.
The Egyptian government officially lists Fawzy, whose full name is Nader Farid Fawzy Nicola, as Nader Farid Nicola.
The court found all the accused guilty of harming national unity, insulting and publicly attacking Islam and spreading false information, the official Egyptian news agency said.
The death sentences still need final approval by the country’s religious authorities.
All of those sentenced live outside Egypt, most in the U.S.
Also convicted was Mark Basseley Youssef, 55, the man behind the movie, which portrays the Prophet Muhammad as a fraud, womanizer and buffoon. He is in custody in California for an unrelated matter.
Terry Jones, another of those sentenced, is the pastor of Dove World Outreach, a church of less than 50 members in Gainesville, Fla., who became well-known two years ago when he publicly burned copies of the Muslim holy book.
Jones said the ruling “shows the true face of Islam.”