Coptic Christian soldier beaten to death by officers in Egypt

(Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)Relatives of victims of an attack that killed at least 28 Coptic Christians on Friday react at the funeral in Minya, Egypt May 26, 2017.

A Coptic Christian soldier has been beaten to death by three officers just a month after he completed his training at a military camp in Egypt.

Joseph Reda Helmy, who hails from Kafr Darwish village in the Beni Suef Governorate, was reportedly killed on June 19, shortly after he was transferred from Mobarak military training center to Al-Salaam special forces police unit.

The Egyptian army has stated that Helmy died of an epileptic seizure, but his relatives believe that he was murdered by the military officers because of his Christian faith.

The deceased soldier's father, Reda Helmy, said that his son arrived at the camp at 2 p.m., and was dead by 8 p.m.

Youssef Zarif, the soldier's cousin, refused to accept the army's explanation that Helmy had died of an epileptic seizure. He noted that the bruises on Helmy's body did not look like those of an epileptic episode.

The soldier had bruises on his head, shoulders, neck, genitalia, as well as his back, where the worst injuries occurred, according to Zarif.

Zarif further noted that the doctor who examined the body refused to bow to pressure from those who brought it and reported that the soldier's cause of death was not natural.

The three officers are now reportedly in custody after a prosecutor accompanying the family demanded an investigation.

Zarif said that police and other soldiers told him that Helmy was harassed by the three officers after learning about his Christian faith. The marks found on the soldier's body indicate that he was hit with heavy instruments and kicked with their boots.

A Christian leader in Helmy's village said many are mourning the soldier's death. "Many women are wearing black, a sign of mourning for the death of one of their Coptic youth," the Christian leader said, according to Morning Star News.

"Many are sharing the graphic pictures of the bruised body of Joseph Reda Helmy, a new draftee doing his military service," he added.

Morning Star News noted that two other Coptic Christians were killed while serving in the Egyptian military. The authorities have claimed that the two soldiers had committed suicide, but they were both reportedly in good mental health, while one of them had severe bruising.

Another Coptic Christian was reportedly killed in August 2016 in a shooting incident, but no one has been criminally charged.

Egypt is currently ranked on the Open Doors' 2017 World Watch List as the 21st most difficult country to be in as a Christian.

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