Defendant in sectarian violence case given life sentence

Ahram Online, Saturday 14 Dec 2013

Violence between Muslims and Coptic Christians in the town of Al-Khosous in April killed five, and sparked days of further violence

Police deployed outside Baptist Church in Al-Khosous, April 2013 (Photo: Nada El-Kouny)

An Egyptian criminal court on Saturday sentenced a man to life imprisonment for involvement in sectarian clashes in April.

Violence broke out between Coptic Christians and Muslims in Al-Khosous town north of Cairo in April. Five people were killed, including four Christians and one Muslims Shops and buildings were also set on fire.

The violence broke out after Christian children allegedly painted swastikas on the wall of an Islamic institute, which locals mistook for crosses.

Alternative reports attributed the beginning of clashes to a fight between a Christian man and a Muslim, after the Muslim man was accused of making passes at the other's wife.

Defendant Hany Farouk was given a life sentence for his involvement, and also received a fine of LE15,000, Al-Ahram's Arabic website reported.

Eleven other people were convicted in the case, receiving sentences ranging from 15 and a half years in jail, to fines from LE100 to LE5,000.

The court also acquitted 32 defendants.

Clashes broke out during the funeral service for the slain Christians on 6 April, when unknown assailants attacked mourners outside St Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo, leaving two people dead and at least 90 injured.

Police fired teargas over the cathedral walls and reportedly stood by as unknown assailants armed with birdshot, knives and petrol bombs attacked those inside the cathedral grounds.

In May, activist and researcher Suleiman Shafiq told Ahram Online that at least 25 churches had been attacked and over 59 Copts killed in sectarian incidents since the 2011 revolution.

Following Morsi's ouster in July, numerous attacks against churches were reported. A major wave of attacks was triggered by the forced dispersal of two pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo on 14 August, which left hundreds of Morsi supporters dead.

Amnesty International, a London-based rights, group, said that upwards of 200 Christian-owned properties were subsequently attacked and 43 churches seriously damaged across the country, while at least four people were killed.

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