Mahmoud Muhammad Ali, a young man in his early thirties who last February went on a stabbing spree against Copts in the southern town of Kom-Ombo and whose lawyer claimed he was mentally deranged, was pronounced sound and fit by the State medical authorities in Cairo.
Ali was placed under medical and psychological observation in Abassiya mental health hospital in Cairo for 45 days after which a three-member committee issued a report declaring him free of any mental or psychological disorders. The report confirmed Ali had no history of mental or psychological illness, and that he at no time suffered symptoms of any condition that could rob him of the faculties of awareness, choice, discernment, or judgement; and was absolutely in control of his decisions and deeds. Ali was thus pronounced responsible for the crimes he has been charged with committing in Kom-Ombo last February
A hearing will be held in Kom-Ombo on 12 May for the prosecution to hear the testimonies of more eyewitnesses. Among them will be the secondary school student Yustina Nasri who had been with one of the victims, Marianne Shafiq, when Ali attacked. The case will then be referred to court.
Targeting Coptic-owned pharmacies
The town of Kom-Ombo in the southernmost Aswan region in Egypt was the scene of a grotesque crime against Copts last February. Ali, who works as a medical representative for a pharmaceutical drugs company, drove his black Renault car around the town centre area and stopped at Coptic-owned pharmacies, stabbing the Copts there. Madeleine Wagih Demian, 30, lost her life, and three other Copts were injured.
Eyewitnesses say that Ali stopped his car at around 7pm in front of the pharmacy of Michael Badir on Port Said Street, the main street in Kom-Ombo. He attempted to assault the men inside with a knife, but they confronted him and he fled. He rushed to his car and headed to al-Mahabba pharmacy further down the road where Demian was tending shop alone. He stabbed her in the neck, directly killing her. As he left, he encountered Marianne Kamal Shafiq, 18, who was heading home from an errand. He stabbed her too, but only injured her in the shoulder.
His third attempted attack was at al-Shifaa pharmacy where the men fought with him, and two were injured.
The attacks were reported to the police and Ali, who had fled town, was caught some 25km on the road out of Kom-Ombo.
Shafiq’s father told Watani that his daughter was asked to identify Ali at the police station. The stabber recognised Marianne, glanced at her and said he was sorry he stabbed her. He confessed to all the stabbings but kept his silence when asked why he did that. Ali is a cousin of the local Muslim Brother (MB) figure Muhammad al-Umda who now stands trial together with other MB leaders for violent crime against the police and civilians.
Demian’s funeral the following day saw the procession move from the church of Mar-Girgis (St George) in Kom-Ombo to the cemetery, all the way chanting “Kyrie Eleison (Lord have mercy)” According to Father Filopatir of Mar-Girgis’s, a large number of Kom-Ombo Muslims marched in the procession in a display of sympathy with the Copts. But eyewitnesses told Watani that the MB held a march of their own as the procession passed, and that a relative of Ali, Ahmed Fadel, shouted out threats to the Copts of more terror to come.
But what really outraged the Copts were leaks that Ali’s lawyers were claiming he was “mentally unbalanced”. “He was known as a respectable young man,” Fr Arsanius who also serves at Mar-Girgis’s says. “He had good relations with Copts. We don’t know what changed him.”
Not the first time
The claim of mental unbalance brings to mind three bitter incidents against Copts.
The first was in Alexandria in April 2006 when a young man named Mahmoud Salah Abdel-Razeq went about in broad daylight stabbing Copts in three different churches. He killed the 60-year-old Noshy Atta Garas and injured six Copts. Abdel-Razeq was later declared mentally deranged.
The second incident occurred in Bagour, Menoufiya, in 2009. A Muslim extremist named Usama al-Bohyagi chased the 64-year-old Copt Abdu Gorgi along the small street where he was opening his shop, stabbing him all the way until his bowels fell out and Bohyagi beheaded him. He rushed away on motorbike to two other destinations where he injured Adeeb Messeiha, 40, in the head and chest; and the young Copt Hany Barsoum in the neck. Bohyagi was pronounced mentally deranged.
In 2011, a junior policeman Amer Ashour Abdel-Zaher boarded the train heading from Upper Egypt to Cairo and shot at Coptic families on the carriage. They were conspicuous because their women were unveiled. He killed one Copt, Fathy Mossaad Ghattas, 71, and injured five. Abdel-Zaher’s lawyers claimed he was suffering mental unbalance, but the medical authorities declared him perfectly sane and he was handed a death sentence in March 2012.
2 May 2014