Are killers of Copts in Egypt handed death sentences?

25-12-2018 10:03 AM

Nader Shukry

Minya prosecution recently charged Rabie Mustafa Khalifa, a policeman on guard of al-Nahda in Minya, some 250km south of Cairo, with premeditated murder of two Coptic men. [ ]. Following a dispute, Khalifa had shot to death Emad Kamal Sadeq, 49, and his son David Sadeq, 21, construction contractors who were working at a site across the street from the church.

Khalifa was arrested and the crime investigated with the help of the church’s CCTV cameras and the testimonies of the other police guards on the same shift. He has been charged with premeditated murder.

The case of Khalifa was the most recent among incidents of murder crimes against Copts. Many Copts have acquired a sceptical attitude that killers of Copts would get away with their crimes; in several cases such killers were pronounced mentally deranged, thus not responsible for their actions, or they were charged not with ‘murder’ but ‘beating that led to death’, a charge that does not carry Egypt’s harshest penalty, the death sentence. The scepticism has its origin in an alleged Hadith (words of the Prophet Muhammad) that no Muslim can be killed for the death of a kafir (non-believer). Several cases throughout recent years, however, belie this claim.

Watani made a survey of the most important cases against killers of Copts during the last three years.


Two men who were convicted of killing Copts were executed.

Abdel-Rashid Ahmad Abdel-Rehim, 43, who in October 2013 had shot to death the Coptic jeweller Maurice Awad, 55, in his jewellery shop in the town of Ras Gharib on the Red Sea coast some 230km south of Suez, and was handed a death sentence in March 2016 by the Red Sea Criminal Court. The crime was for robbery. The criminal contested the ruling, but his claim was overruled. Abdel-Rehim was executed in July 2018.

The second killer to be executed Amer Ashour Abdel-Zaher, a policeman in his thirties, who shot six Coptic passengers on the train heading to Cairo from Assiut, some 350km south of Cairo, in December 2010.

Fathy Saad Mossaad Ghobrial, 71, from Zaitoun, Cairo, was directly killed, and five were injured. The Copts had boarded the train at Samalout, Minya, some 250km south of Cairo, and the killer recognised them as Copts since their women were not veiled. [ ]

Ashour tried to pretend that he was mentally ill, but he was proved sane by the medical authorities. In May 2012, Minya Criminal Court sentenced him to death; he was executed in 2014.

Awaiting execution

In seven cases, death sentences were handed to killers of Copts, but have not so far been executed.

Alexandria Criminal Court handed a death sentence in February 2018 to Adel Soliman, 48. Soliman was charged with killing Youssef Lamei, a Coptic shop owner in his fifties, in Alexandria on 2 January 2017. The pretext for the murder was that Lamei sold liquor in his shop, a practice condemned by Islam.

The bearded Adel Soliman, an Islamist, sneaked into the coffeeshop, came up from behind Lamei and slashed his throat twice with a large knife. He was convicted of premeditated murder and sentenced to death. He awaits execution.

In Upper Egypt, Luxor Criminal Court in December 2018 issued a final death sentence to the murderer of the 27-year Coptic lawyer, Magda Fayez, and her 5-year-old daughter, Juliette Hany Saad. The murderer, Diaa al-Din Mahmoud al-Nubi, 31, was their next door neighbour, and stabbed them in the throat with a knife. The crime took place in June 2012, and a death sentence was issued in 2015. It was finalised by the higher court this month.

In August 2018, a final death sentence was handed to Ahmad A. E, 37, who had in 2017 shot to death the Coptic jewellery salesman Malak Awad, 41, to rob him.

In the mid-Delta town of Shebin al-Koum in the province of Menoufiya, the criminal court in February 2018 sentenced to death two unemployed men for murdering a Coptic man and his wife. A year earlier, 62-year-old Gamal Samy Girgis and his 55-year-old wife Nadia Amin Girgis were found stabbed to death in their home. Abdel-Aziz A., 24, and Muhammad E., 27, were convicted of murdering them with the purpose of robbery.

Cairo Criminal Court has sentenced Hassan Zakariya to death for premeditated murder of the Coptic physician Tharwat Gorgi, 82, in his clinic in Shubra, Cairo, in September 2017. The ruling awaits approval by Egypt’s

Mufti, the high-ranking Muslim cleric in charge of issuing Islamic legal opinion; it is standard practice to secure the Mufti’s approval for a death sentence to become final.

Zakariya, 30, holds a technical school degree, and embraces the extremist thought of Daesh, aka Islamic State IS. His lawyer attempted to prove he is mentally deranged, but did not succeed.

Another death sentence that is not yet final is the one handed in November 2017 to Ahmad Saeed Ibrahim al-Sonbati, 19, for premeditated murder of a Coptic priest, Father Samaan Shehata, 45, from Beni Sweif, some 100km south of Cairo. The murder took place in October 2017. [ ]

The sentence was approved by Egypt’s Mufti, but is being contested in the Court of Cassation which could order a retrial.

Sonbati, a technician, was charged with the premeditated murder of Fr Samaan, whom he said he did not personally know. He said he had decided to kill any Coptic priest, purchased a dagger, and lay in wait for one to pass by, in a street leading to the local church. When Fr Samaan passed by—he was, incidentally, not going to the church but to a nearby warehouse whose owners had pledged donations for the poor in Fr Samaan’s village—Sonbati rushed at him and stabbed him to death.

In October 2018, the Military Court in Alexandria handed sentences to 48 men who were convicted of targeting al-Boutrossiya Church in Cairo on 11 December 2016, killing 29 persons; Mar-Girgis Church in Tanta and St Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria on 19 April 2017, killing 27 and 18 persons respectively, and a military checkpoint in Naqab in 2017, killing 8 policemen. Daesh had claimed responsibility for the attacks. The court handed 17 death sentences, 19 life in prison, nine 15-year prison sentences, and one 10-year prison sentence.

[ ]

Watani International

25 December 2018

(Visited 128 times, 1 visits today)