Paris Copts protest Abu-Qurqas sentence

29-05-2012 04:19 PM

Nader Shukry

Protests by Copts and human rights activists against what is widely seen as court rulings that discriminate against Copts are ongoing

Protests by Copts and human rights activists against what is widely seen as court rulings that discriminate against Copts are ongoing. The cause was triggered by the recent court ruling by a Minya criminal court which sentenced 12 Copts from the town of Abu-Qurqas to life imprisonment while it acquitted eight Muslims who had been prosecuted on the same charges in the same case.
In Paris
Egyptian Copts in Paris organised a march that began in front of the Tour Eiffel and headed towards the Egyptian Embassy, to denounce what they described as religious-based court rulings in Egypt. 
The Coptic march had originally planned as a commemorative event in honour of Pope Shenouda III who passed away last March. 
The marchers stood before the Egyptian Embassy, holding banners and signs which denounced the court ruling and demanded a hearing with the Egyptian government to protest against the unjust ruling against the Abu-Qurqas Copts. The demonstrators chanted slogans against the Egyptian judiciary which they alleged is infiltrated with Islamists. 
The march was organised by the French Coptic Association. Coptic activists from various places in Europe participated, as well as a number of activists from Egypt including the lawyers Naguib Gabrail and Tharwat Bekheit who were on a visit to Paris.
In Cairo
In Cairo, and under the title of “Justice for Abu-Qurqas”, the Alliance of Egypt’s Copts held demonstrations last Saturday and Sunday in front of the High Court in central Cairo to protest against the court ruling, which they saw as an unjust and non-justifiably harsh. 
The Maspero Youth Union (MYU) had also held a protest last Tuesday, again in front of the High Court to protest against the sentence which they described as “based on religious identity”. Other protests were held simultaneously in the towns of Alexandria, Assiut, Minya, and Suez. 
The crime
On Monday 21 May the Criminal Court of Minya in Upper Egypt sentenced 12 Copts to life imprisonment for their part in a fight which took place in the town of Abu-Qurqas in April 2011, and which left three Muslims dead, and several Copts’ houses and cattle sheds looted and burnt.
Alaa’ Rushdy, Yacoub Fadl, Abdullah Mikhail Abdullah, Adel Abdullah Mikhail, Fanous Nady Ibrahim, Magdy Nady Ibrahim, Gamal Fouad Hanna, Eid Ibrahim Fanous, Safwat Kamel Habib Ghattas, Eid Abdullah Mikhail, Magdy Abdullah Mikhail, and Saeed Waheed Deif were all sentenced. The court acquitted the eight Muslim men who had been charged in the same case: Ahmed Mustafa Rabie, Taher Atef Taher, Khaled Ibrahim Mohamed, Ahmed Badr Ahmed, Ramadan Abdel-Azim Mohamed, Reda Sayed Ahemd, Ismail Mamdouh Mahmoud, and Ikrami Abdullah Mohamed. 
The April 2011 fight in Abu-Qurqas village in Minya had erupted over a speed bump which the Coptic lawyer, Alaa’ Rushdy, had constructed in front of his house in order to slow down traffic. The defendants, the 12 Copts and eight Muslims, had all been charged with mobbing, premeditated murder, threatening public peace, sectarian sedition, arson, and using unlicensed arms to threaten security and public order. 
Impossible to remain silent
The MYU had last evening issued a statement in which it said that the several recent court rulings which indicted innocent Copts and exonerated Muslim offenders has made it impossible to commit to the policy of refraining from comment on court rulings. The only two crimes in which Muslims were sentenced for murder of Copts were the cases of Nag Hammadi where seven were shot as they left church following Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve (6 January) in 2010, and that of Dairout in which a Muslim policeman man shot at six Copts on a train, killing one of them and wounding the others. In some 160 cases of attacks against Copts during the past decades, no-one was indicted.  
“No sound reason,” the statement said, “can condone the notion that defending oneself, one’s family, honour, and property, is a crime which warrants life imprisonment.”
For its part, the Alliance of Egypt’s Copts announced it will contest the ruling.
Watani International
29 May 2012  
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