Suspects in attack on Egyptian Christians will face expedited criminal court
Some 18 people in Egypt will be tried through an expedited criminal court in relation to a series of attacks against Coptic Christians who were holding a sit-in last May 14 outside a government building.
The 18 people have been charged with exhibiting force, thuggery, endangering lives, attacking peaceful demonstrators, disturbing the peace, disturbing public security, and destruction of public and private property, among others, Al Masyr Al Youm
The trials will be held in Cairo on May 21. A spokesman for attorney general Abdel Meguid Mahmoud said investigation is underway and the prosecution has the testimonies of police and some 36 victims, Al Masyr Al Youm said.
Last Saturday Coptic Christian protestors demonstrating at the Egyptian Radio and Television Union building at Maspero were assaulted in three successive attacks, killing one and injuring over 100 others, Assyrian International News Agency said.
Tensions have been high in Cairo since May 7, when Christians and Muslims battled through the night in Imbaba, a working class neighborhood, leaving at least 12 dead and two churches torched, The New York Times said.
Last Saturday, assailants first struck around midnight when two Muslims wearing Salafist clothes tried to force their way through the demonstrators, but were blocked by Christian youth, according to AINA.
One of the Muslims fled, while another was apprehended and brought to the police. The Muslim was identified as Ramadan Abdallah, a high school graduate of al-Ashar, AINA reported.
The second attack occurred almost simultaneously from a bridge overlooking the protest area, where a group of Muslims arrived in a minibus and threw Molotov cocktails, empty bottles and stones at the Christian demonstrators, then fled, AINA said.
The third assault took place an hour later when Muslims from Boulak, a poor neighborhood near Maspero, surrounded the Christians, threw Molotov cocktails at them and fired guns. They also torched a boat in the Nile that belonged to a TV crew, AINA reported.
One of the Muslim attackers wielding a knife injured the leg and hand of Samuel Sobhy, one of the organizers of the rally. The attacker was captured and handed over to the police, AINA said.
Threats of attack
Father Filopateer Gameel told AINA that he had received threats of a pending attack against the protesters. When he informed the police they said he should call the army as they could do nothing about it.
During the melee, Gameel read the absolution of sins for all Christian demonstrators, fearful that they may be killed, AINA said.
Gameel also told AINA that he blames Interior Minister el-Essawy for the chaos because the minister said on TV that the protests of the Christians should be ended by any means. In essence, Gameel said, this gave a green light to Muslim extremists.
Father Botros of Moqattam Church said, “These are not thugs. They are criminals hired by security authorities and the army to break up the Coptic sit-in. The army and the security should be held accountable. We have rights and we will take them.”
The Christians, who have been protesting since May 7, are seeking the release of 17 Christians who were sentenced to three years imprisonment on March 16, as well as 400 others who are also still in prison, AINA said. They also are demanding that Muslims who torched the churches in Soul, Moqattam, Abu Qorgas, Embaba and Alexandria are brought to justice.
There has been a rise in sectarian violence and crime in general in Cairo post revolution. A number of policemen have deserted the police force because they may be punished for past abuses before the revolution, The New York Times said.
There are also suspicions that a counterrevolutionary conspiracy is in the works that seeks to create disorder, and in this way bring down the military council, according to The New York Times.