Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Egypt: Man sentenced to death over Copt killings

Egypt has sentence a man to death for killing six Coptic Christians and a Muslim police officer outside midnight mass for Coptic Christmas in Naga Hammady. It is not entirely clear what prompted the shootings, but there has been speculation that the attack was revenge for the alleged rape of a 12 year old Muslim girl by a Christian man.

The court found Mohamed Ahmed Hussein guilty of "pre-meditated murder" of the seven dead. The sentencing comes a few weeks after a suicide bomber killed 23 people at a Coptic church in Alexandria. Two other men, Qurshi Abu Al-Haggag Mohamed and Hindawi El-Sayyef Mohamed, are also on trial for the 6th January shooting, all three pleaded not guilty to the charges, denying any connection to the attack. The court said the verdict against al-Haggag Mohamed and El-Sayyef Mohamed would be announced 20th February.

Naga Hammady's Coptic Bishop Anba Kirolos said his congregation was "satisfied" with the ruling; however, there has been some unrest in the community due to the delay in bringing the men to justice and because of the alleged ties between Hussein and an MP in the ruling party.

Coptic Christians make up 10 per cent of Egypt's 80 million residents, and have often complained of harassment and discrimination which the government has frequently failed to address. The government, however, denies discriminating against the country's Christians and says it has been on high security alert ever since the first attack.

In light of the sentencing, Amnesty International has expressed disapproval of Egypt's authorities trying to circumvent the criminal justice system by using emergency courts. It also called Egypt to commute the death sentence against the accused.

“It is all the more disturbing that his case has been heard in a court that allows no appeal, denying the defendant fundamental fair trial guarantees. This practice is a short-cut to the criminal justice system and must be stopped…We deplore the tragic death of the six worshipers and the police guard but we fear that such a harsh penalty might not be based on the evidence available but rather to show the determination of the authorities to combat sectarian violence, especially after the Alexandria church bombing,” said Amnesty International.

Sources: BBC News, CNN, Bikyamasr, Al Jazeera , AFP

For more news and expert analysis about Egypt, please see Egypt Politics & Security.

No comments:

Post a Comment