CAIRO, EGYPT (Worthy News)– Christian rights activists remained concerned Saturday about the plight of 12 Christians who were sentenced to life imprisonment in Egypt over sectarian violence that killed three people last year.
Advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) quoted trial observers as saying that the decision by Judge Abdel Fattah Ahmend al-Sughayar of Minya Criminal Court was a “serious miscarriage of justice”.
The Christians were found guilty of sowing public strife, the possession of illegal weapons and shooting dead two Muslims in April of last year in Minya province, about 220 kilometers (135 miles) south of Cairo,trial observers said
Tensions in April 2011 reportedly began after a Muslim bus driver became angry over a speed bump outside the home of a wealthy Coptic attorney and instigated a crowd, brandishing weapons, to assist him in removing it.
Fearing an imminent attack, at least one guard at the house began to shoot, killing two Muslims and injuring two others, according to rights investigators.
There have also been reports that Christians fearing for their lives shot from rooftops into the
Following the funerals of the two dead, a mob of local Muslims, accompanied by Salafis, burned down scores of Christian homes and businesses, CSW said.
"During the violence an elderly Coptic woman died after being thrown from a balcony, while a Coptic
man was critically injured."
Egyptian Christians claim security forces arriving at the scene refused to intervene.
CSW’s Advocacy Director, Andrew Johnston, said, that while "there is no question that the guilty should be punished, there remain worrying indications that the twelve men may not have received due legal process" for the Christians.
As civilians, he said "they should not have been brought before a military tribunal." Additionally, "the unequal application of justice in this case is an unfortunate illustration of how Egyptian Christians are not treated equally under the law."
Johnston added that "Over the past few years, we have seen various attacks on Coptic communities in Egypt, without any justice for the victims. This has led to a cycle of impunity for aggressors. Egyptian Christians simply desire to participate as full and equal citizens of their country."
CSW said the case underscores "continuing lack of equality under the law for the Coptic community", the word used for Egyptian Christians, "which was also prevalent under the regime of [former leader] Hosni Mubarak."
There have been concerns that Islamic hardliners will gain influence following this week's presidential elections, which church leaders claim may further negatively impact minority Christians.
This month, "Muslim Brotherhood's presidential candidate Muhamed Mousa made it clear that Shari’a law", or Islamic law, and the Koran "should be the basis of the Egyptian constitution, a document that is yet to be drafted," CSW noted in a statement to Worthy News.
There are "legitimate concerns", it said "that such a move would effectively relegate non-Muslims to second class citizens."
The interim Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Bishop Pachomius, has reportedly said that the Egyptian constitution must be drafted to accommodate "equality for all citizens."
CSW said it has urged Egypt's interim military rulers to allow a re-examination of the case against Christians "preferably in a civil court" and that it asked leaders "to ensure justice and protection for all Egyptians, regardless of their creed."
Christians, also known as Copts, who comprise some 10 percent of Egypt's 80-million mainly Muslim population.
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