A recent ruling by the Banha Criminal Court in the case of the attack against the Copts in the eastern Cairo suburb of Khusous; which left six Copts and one Muslim dead, 22 injured and several Coptic owned homes,
shops and vehicles burned; has outraged Copts at large. Harsh sentences were handed to the Copts accused in the case, whereas the Muslim defendants were handed what the Copts saw as overly lenient sentences.
The Copt Hany Farouq Awad was sentenced to 25 years in prison and fined EGP15,000; and Naguib Samir and Iskandar Samir, two Coptic cousins, were each handed 15 years in prison and fined EGP5,000. The Muslims Mustafa Abdel-Bari, Mahmoud Mahmoud al-Alfy, Abdel-Nabi Fathy Abdel-Rahman and Rifaat Muhammad Abdel-Rahman were sentenced to five year prison terms. Ashraf Muhammad Farag Shahat, Youssef Abdallah Youssef Hassan and Karim Abdallah Youssef Hassan, all Muslims, were fined EGP1000 each; and Ahmed Abdel-Aleem Muhammad, a Muslim, was fined EGP100 and handed a six month prison term.
In its ruling, the court mentioned that: “The criminals sentenced have committed crimes and breached the law; they inflamed sectarianism and threatened the security and stability of the State; they created chaos and attacked people; and some of them held unlicensed weapons”.
“The ruling is unfair and enhances sectarianism; it is just a single episode in the series of injustices against Copts.” This is how the lawyer Iskandar Samir Iskandar who is also the brother of Naguib Samir Iskandar described the ruling. He criticised the life sentence for his relative whom he described as “a victim who had himself come under attack” as he did his brother’s 15 year prison sentence “despite testimony by witnesses that he was not in the neighbourhood during the attack.” Iskandar said it made no sense that the Muslims offenders and the sheikh of the local mosque who used the mosque microphone to incite against thew Copts had got lenient sentences, and some 32 defendants the majority of whom are Muslim were acquitted, whereas the Copts, who had been the victims of the attack, were convicted. He said he would appeal the ruling.
The lawyer and political activist Saïd Fayez said that the ruling was based on inaccurate if not outright false police investigations. He stressed the huge discrepancies between the police report and the report written by the fact-finding commissions of rights organisations. “The judge was handed reports which indicated that a group of Copts killed a Muslim but which said nothing about the incitement by extremist Muslims against the Copts and the rampage waged against them that led to six dead. No Muslim was charged with killing the Copts or burning their property.”
Copts don’t matter
Mr Fayez decried the fact that inaccurate investigations by the police have become standard in cases where Copts come under attack. “Since the notorious Khanka incident in 1972 and until today the only case in which a Muslim was penalised for killing a Copt was in the 2010 Nag Hammadi crime. That was when six Copts and a Muslim lost their lives in a drive-by shooting at a congregation that was leaving church after Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.”
Fayez believes that problems is in setting criminals free; in this case the sheikh who incited Muslims to kill Copts and accused them of drawing a swastika—which many Muslims saw as a cross—on the wall of a mosque in Khusous. This sheikh was acquitted even though he used the mosque and Islamic teachings to incite against the Copts.
“The ruling reveals that the investigations charged no one with the death of the six Copts.”
Ishaq Ibrahim who is a researcher with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, a rights NGO, described the Khusous ruling as yet another case where attackers of Copts are not penalised. “If anything,” he said, “it reveals that Copts cannot hope for much justice since the State deals with them as though it couldn’t care less.” For his part, the lawyer and member of the Coptic Maspero Youth Union Hany Ramsis, said that a number of those who were injured during the attack in Khusous still lie in hospital in critical conditions, while some others have been permanently disabled. “So much for the State’s concern for Copts!” Ramsis says. “As though Copts are not Egyptian!”
27 December 2013