A Giza misdemeanour court today sentenced the Copt Eid Attiya Ibrahim, charged with erecting a building without licence in the village of Kafr al-Wassleen in Etfeeh, Giza, to a suspended sentence of one year in prison and a fine of EGP360,000. The same court sentenced 19 other defendants who were charged with mobbing, beating, using religion to stoke sectarian sedition, and breaking into and destroying the property of Copts to a one-year suspended sentence and a fine of EGP500 each.
The story goes back to last December when, following Friday noon prayers, hundreds of men gathered in front of the small building which has been used by the village Copts as a de-facto church for some 15 years. The Muslim mobsters screamed the Islamic chant of Allahu Akbar (Allah is the Greatest), and hostile cries that called for bringing the church down. They broke into the building, injuring three Copts who worked there, destroying everything inside, and throwing out the Bibles and religious objects. The Coptic villagers claimed that the attack came in the wake of a rumour circulated in the village that they intended to install a bell in their church. The police dispersed the assailants and caught 28 men on charges of mobbing, beating, using religion to stoke sectarian sedition, and breaking into and destroying the property of others. The injured, among whom was Eid Attiya Ibrahim, were moved to hospital.
Mr Ibrahim was later arrested for erecting a building without licence. Mr Ibrahim had constructed the building as a village house but then sold it to the Church which converted it into the de-facto church of al-Amir Tadros. The bishopric of Etfeeh submitted documents to the court proving that the building in question was a church owned by the bishopric. The de-facto church is unlicensed, owing to the near impossibility of obtaining official licence to build a church prior to the 2016 law for building churches. Once this law was passed, however, Etfeeh bishopric applied to legalise the status of al-Amir Tadros’s according to the new law.
The lawyers of Mr Ibrahim described the court ruling as ‘unjust’, especially that those who stoked sectarian sedition, and encroached on the property of others received a lesser penalty. They also said that Mr Ibrahim was being penalised for erecting an unlicensed building which he did not own; Etfeeh Bishopric is the owner of the building in question, and submitted all ownership documents to the court. It had also officially applied for legalising the status of the church.
Mr Ibrahim’s lawyer told Watani he would appeal the ruling; also submit a plea to court to allow for paying the fine in instalments, since the sum exceeds the means of Mr Ibrahim.
31 January 2018