Associated Press: U.S. Embassy Says Five Americans Jailed in Egypt, Accused of Missionary Work

From XFamily - Children of God

U.S. Embassy Says Five Americans Jailed in Egypt, Accused of Missionary Work

Associated Press/1985-10-18

By NEJLA SAMMAKIA, Associated Press Writer

CAIRO, Egypt

U.S. Embassy sources said Friday that five Americans have been jailed by authorities for 11 days, apparently under suspicion of illegally trying to convert Egyptians to a religious cult.

Three American women said their husbands were detained even though Egyptian officials know they do not belong to the "Children of God," an organization founded in California in 1968 that moved to Europe in the 1970s.

Carl Mobacher, Thomas Pasquarello and John Weed are among five Americans the U.S. Embassy said have been held since being arrested before dawn Oct. 7 at their homes in Alexandria.

The U.S. Embassy said in an official statement that it hoped to win release of the five soon. An embassy source said the men are thought to be under suspicion of illegally proselytizing in Egypt.

Trying to convert people to other religions is forbidden under Egypt's Islamic-based constitution.

An unsigned news release from a group calling itself "Concerned Americans in Cairo" said 19 foreigners, mostly Americans, were arrested in the early-morning sweep in the Mediterranean port city.

The release, hand-delivered to The Associated Press, also spoke of "unconfirmed reports of 17 arrests in Cairo" and said the arrests appear "to be a crackdown on the Children of God." There was no way to verify the accuracy of the statement.

The U.S. Embassy said in its statement that it "has been in close contact with appropriate Egyptian officials to urge the expeditious consideration of the case. Of the Americans originally detained, we understand that five remain under detention."

Embassy officials refused to say where the five were held or whether charges had been filed.

The wives of Morbacher, Pasquarello and Weed told the AP that their husbands were in a state security jail in downtown Cairo, and that the Embassy had not been notified of any charges being filed.

The women said Egyptian security officers told them their husbands would be released Monday.

Yvonne Morbacher of Minneapolis, Minn., said that at 2 a.m. on Oct. 7, security agents "ransacked our house completely, looking for tapes, books, any kind of material, anything that could show that were part of a cult."

She said all three families belong to a legal Protestant church in Alexandria.

After waiting until morning at a police station, she said, they were joined by their friends, the Pasquarellos of Harrisburg, Pa., and the Weeds of Birmingham, Ala.

She said they were among 11 adults and 10 children, including a British man and two French women, who were then packed into a police truck and driven 138 miles to Cairo.

Mrs. Morbacher said that after several hours of questioning, she heard an official translating for her say in Arabic: "I think we've made a terrible mistake."

She said it was clear from the questioning that they were suspected of belonging to the "Children of God" cult. "The interrogators began to realize that the three of us didn't know anything about this group.

"So, the very first night when we were questioned, they said we were innocent. Our husbands were also cleared the first night and the following morning, though later in the week they were questioned again," she said.

Mrs. Pasquarello said her translator said the three couples were arrested because their names had been given to police by a "foreign informant."

"I have no idea who or why," she said. "The only reason we knew each other is that we were members of the community church (in Alexandria)."

Mrs. Morbacher said her husband, who comes from Philadelphia, Pa., works in Alexandria as a hydrologist. Ruth Weed said her husband teaches English in Alexandria, and Crystal Pasquarello's husband is a doctor's assistant at an Alexandria hospital. All three families came to Egypt in 1984.

The women said their passports were impounded, but they were released with orders to stay in Cairo until investigations were completed. The men were ordered held for further questioning, they said.

A state security official said the case was being handled by the security prosecutor's office. There was no response to telephone calls to the office.

The "Children of God" cult was founded by 65-year-old David Berg, known to his followers as David Moses.

Berg's philosophy mixes apocalyptic warnings of the downfall of the world's economies and governments with enthusiastic endorsement of communal sex among his followers.