'Terrorist attacks on Coptic churches are part of a grand conspiracy,' says Egypt parliament speaker

Gamal Essam El-Din , Sunday 9 Apr 2017

MPs call for stiffer and swifter penalties for terrorist acts following bombings in Tanta and Alexandria

Ali Abdel Aal
An archival for Egypt's parliament speaker Ali Abdel Aal (Photo: Al Ahram)

Suicide attacks on two churches in Tanta and Alexandria triggered sharp reactions in Egypt's parliament – the House of Representatives.

While parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Aal said the attacks are the sort of "black terrorism" that aims to shed the blood of all Egyptians, the legislative and constitutional affairs committee said it will meet Monday to discuss how the Criminal Procedures Law should be amended to help avert terrorist crimes.

In an official statement, speaker Ali Abdel-Aal said the group that claimed responsibility for the two attacks is a barbaric movement that aims to distort the face of Islam and spread chaos and bloodbaths in all of Egypt.

"These two terrorist attacks, in addition to the one that hit the Coptic Cathedral in Cairo last December, are part of a grand conspiracy that aims to destabilise Egypt and disrupt its strong national unity," said Abdel-Aal.

"It is clear that terrorist groups seized preparations in all of Egypt to celebrate Palm Sunday to launch their criminal attacks against Coptic Christians.

"They want to drive a wedge between Muslims and Christians, but I am sure that these incidents will only lead to reinforcing national unity," said Abdel-Aal, vowing that parliament will do everything possible to stem the tide of terrorist crimes and safeguard Christian Egyptians," Abdel-Aal added.

Figures released by the Ministry of Health said the two deadly blasts that hit two Coptic churches in the Nile-Delta city of Tanta and in Alexandria have so far left at least 44 dead and around 100 injured.

Head of parliament's legislative and constitutional affairs committee Bahaaeddin Abu Shoqa said the committee will meet tomorrow to review proposed amendments of the Criminal Procedures Law in a bid to stem the tide of terrorist attacks.

In the aftermath of a terrorist attack on the Coptic Cathedral last December, a majority of MPs said the Criminal Procedures Law should be amended to stiffen penalties on terrorism crimes and help cut trials of suspected terrorists short.

Other MPs proposed that the country's 2014 Constitution be modified to allow suspected terrorists stand trial before military courts. MPs said military courts proved highly effective in fighting terrorist crimes in the first half of the 1990s.

An official statement by the pro-government "Support Egypt" parliamentary bloc said the new terrorist attacks on Coptic churches should move the government and parliament to discuss the amendments of the Criminal Procedures Law as soon as possible.

"I made contacts with head of the legislative and constitutional affairs committee and we agreed that we should begin discussing the amendments tomorrow," said head of the bloc Mohamed El-Sewedi.

The statement said the attacks on Coptic churches clearly come after President El-Sisi made a "successful visit to the United States and after the number of foreign tourists visiting Egypt increased in recent months."

"What we should all so – Muslims and Christians – is stand united in order not to give terrorists any chance to disrupt the country's national unity," said the statement.

Deputy parliament speaker El-Sayed El-Sherif told reporters Sunday that the government has not so far submitted amendments of the Criminal Procedures Law.

"After terrorist attacks hit the Coptic Cathedral last December, it was agreed that these amendments should reach parliament by January," said El-Sherif, adding that, "judicial authorities are still revising the amendments and we hope that they will finish them very soon."

Deputy parliament speaker Soliman Wahdan told reporters that MPs should take the initiative of amending laws necessary to fight terrorism.

"MPs proposed that suspected terrorists face military trials and tougher penalties and so we should not wait until the government submits amended laws in this respect," said Wahdan.

Mohamed El-Ghoul, deputy head of parliament human rights committee, said "Senior leaders affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and other related terrorist groups who are currently in jail or who are currently living in Turkey and Qatar were able to send messages to their followers in North Sinai, instructing them to mount terrorist attacks against Christians."

"I wonder why anti-terror laws were not amended to help fight these legislative loopholes and guarantee a quick trial of terrorist elements," said El-Ghoul.

El-Ghoul said the attacks on Coptic churches demonstrate that a lot of money is still being channeled from countries like Turkey and Qatar to fund terrorist crimes in Egypt.

"We see that terrorist cells by different names still have the money and financial resources necessary to mount their attacks, and without drying up these sources it will be quite difficult to defeat terrorism in Egypt and other places anytime soon," said El-Ghoul.

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