Egyptian authorities have accused a Coptic Christian woman of slitting the throat of her newborn baby -- even though she claims Islamic extremists carried out the horrific murder because of her family's faith.
Azza Gamal, 27, told persecution watchdog World Watch Monitor that on September 7, her husband, Nour Bakhit Khalil, 30, went to visit his sister, leaving her alone with her two-year-old twin girls Mariam and Martha and baby daughter Mohrael.
Shortly after Nour left, someone knocked on the locked door. Thinking her husband had returned, Azza opened the door.
In front of her stood three masked men and a woman wearing traditional Muslim garb. The group pushed her inside, grabbing the baby from her arms. They then beat her, shouting "kafirs" ("infidels") and fled, taking the baby with them.
Upon hearing his wife screaming, Nour ran home to see what had happened and was told that his daughter, Mohrael, had been kidnapped.
"I immediately went to the police station to report the kidnapping of my daughter," he told WWM.
"They asked me to fetch my wife and our ID cards and then to come back to file a report. None of them went back with me to investigate the matter or search for my daughter."
When Nour arrived back at his house, he received the horrific news that his baby daughter had been found, with her throat slit and her body dumped among the plants just 10 meters from their home.
He returned to the police station, this time with his wife, to report on what he had seen. The police started an investigation and promised they would do their best to find and arrest the perpetrators.
Just four days later, police came back and raided their home, accusing Azza of murdering her own daughter.
"The officers slapped my wife in the kitchen and said that she had killed her daughter and arrested her," Nour explained. "They alleged that my wife suffers from psychological problems because of her desire to have a male rather than a female child, as she [already] has two girls. Allegedly she [also] killed Mohrael because I dislike having girls and wanted a boy instead of this girl."
"We are simple people, we had no enemies, and there isn't any trouble between us and anyone in the village," Nour said.
Nour called the charges brought against his wife "false, irrational and unreasonable".
"My wife is a very good woman. She is a religious person who has a strong relationship with God and could not do something like killing her daughter," he said. "She and I were very happy when God blessed us with this little girl. Mohrael was very beautiful and cute and a great gift from God to us and we loved her so much."
Nour said that his wife "loves" her family and would never carry out such a terrible act.
"She treats me well, is very humble and loves me and our daughters so much, especially the new baby," he said. "As for me, I wasn't angry because my wife had a girl. On the contrary I love the girls and I was very happy when my wife gave birth to Mohrael. Saint Mary was a girl. Boys and girls are gifts from God and none can object this gift."
The couple's priest, Fr. Philemon Abdallah Mashreqi, told WWM there is a history of harassment of Coptic Christians in the village -- but police refuse to protect the minority group.
"The police's indifference, inaction and complicity gives an opportunity for these criminals to continue with their aggressive acts against us," he said. "As long as no legal action is taken, these attacks will not end but increase over time. We see that we have no rights here and that the law does not apply".
Nour and Azza's church has hired a lawyer on their behalf and has asked "the people of our village will contribute even a small part to pay for these costs".
Coptic Christians are the indigenous Christian population of Egypt, who date back to the first decades following the life of Jesus Christ.
Copts, who account for about 10 percent Egypt's 92 million population, have faced persecution and discrimination that has escalated since the toppling of Hosni Mubarak's regime in 2011.
Egypt ranks as the 21st worst country in the world when it comes to persecution of Christians, Open Doors USA's 2017 World Watch List states.