20 March 2011
Last Monday, the Qena Criminal Court sentenced Girgis Baroumi to 15 years in prison. The 21-year-old Baroumi is a Coptic poultry vendor from a village near Farshout, some 600km south of Cairo, who was charged with raping a 12-year-old Muslim girl from a nearby village in November 2009.
Back then, the alleged rape incident resulted in sectarian violence by the Muslim townspeople against the Copts of Farshout, which cost the Copts some EGP4.6 million in damages, apart from immeasurable moral terror. It was also linked to the January 2010 Christmas Eve drive-by shooting in Nag Hammadi, 15km south of Farshout, which left one Muslim and six Copts dead as they left church following Midnight Mass. The Farshout alleged rape was used as a pretext to justify the Nag Hammadi crime as vengeance for the girl’s honour.
Baroumi, who was arrested in November 2009 and only referred to court following the Nag Hammadi crime two months later, insisted he was innocent of the rape charge. His lawyers insisted there was not a shred of evidence to incriminate him; rather, the official medical report revealed it was physically impossible for the rape crime to have occurred in the manner the girl alleged. They claimed the alleged scene of the crime was a busy road on which a rape crime in broad daylight could have never passed unnoticed.
The prevalent view among Copts is that Baroumi was handed down the harsh sentence to balance the fact that Hamam al-Kamouni, who was accused of the Nag Hammadi murder, was sentenced to death some three months ago. Baroumi’s lawyers said they would appeal the case.