Egypt’s Christians Outraged By Court Ruling
Mary Abdelmassih (“Assyrian International News Agency,” May 24, 2012)

Cairo, Egypt – The verdict passed by the Minya Criminal Court on May 21 convicting 12 Copts to life imprisonment while acquitting eight accused Muslims in the same case, known as Abu Qurqas sedition, has caused widespread anger among the Copts. Georges Wahib of United Copts, who attended the court session, said that when judge Abdel Fattah Ahmed al-Sughayar pronounced the verdict at the court yesterday “there was complete silence, as it came as a shock to everyone, then cries of grief and wailing could be heard from the Coptic families with shouts of we are innocent, while the Muslim side broke out into jubilation and shouts of Allahu Akbar.”

All prisoners were taken to the basement, and the court itself was surrounded by hundreds of military police. For security the court session was transferred to Beni Suef from Minya Criminal Court.

The events of the case started on April 18, 2011 over a speed hump built in front of the residence of a wealthy Coptic lawyer, Alaa Reda Roushdi, which a minibus driver claimed was damaging cars. The fight that broke out led to the death of 2 Muslims, injury to 4 Copts, and the destruction and looting of Coptic-owned homes and businesses (AINA 4-26-2011).

Many rights groups criticized the verdict as being “unbelievable” and “extremely harsh” towards the Copts. All the Muslims defendants, “who torched at least 56 Coptic homes, as well as businesses and barns, were acquitted,” said Wagdi Halfa, defense attorney of the Coptic victims, in an interview aired yesterday by Coptic TV Channel. He expressed his incomprehension at how Coptic lawyer Alaa Reda Roushdi, who was not even in Abou Qorqas during the events, and then kept under house arrest by the police for another three days, could get life imprisonment.

Adel Roushdi, younger brother of Alaa Roushdi said during the same TV interview that the Islamists wanted to get rid of his brother because of the parliamentary elections, where his brother was sure to win. He accused the police chief in Abou Qorqas of planning the whole episode.

Dr. Naguib Gabriel, president of the Egyptian Union Human Rights Organization, said that one should not keep silent over the continuing harsh verdicts against the Copts. He called upon the military council to stop the implementation of this ruling and to order a re-trial of the case in an ordinary court in another district. He said “where is the conscience and faith of the judge in connection with the torching of Christian homes and shops by Muslims, as reported by the police?” He also questioned the reason for having the case in front of an Emergency State Security court, where no appeal is allowed, while the charges were murder, attempted murder, congregation and carrying of firearms.

Michael Monier, an American-Egyptian activist and head of Life Party, described the verdict as racist and unjust, adding that “it also shows that the Egyptian judiciary takes its orders from higher authorities.”

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