(AINA) -- The drive-by shooting of Coptic Christians by extremist Muslims after celebrating the Orthodox Christmas Eve midnight Mass in the southern town of Nagaa Hammadi on January 6, causing the killing of 6 and wounding of 9, (AINA 1-7-2010) was condemned by public opinion worldwide.
To contain the damage of tarnishing the "image" of Egypt and to minimize the repercussions of the massacre, government spin doctors tried to condition public opinion into believing and accepting the scenario set out by State Security that the killing was "criminal and individual" rather than a "sectarian" affair.
Egypt's Interior Ministry said the Nag Hammadi attack was a retaliation for the sexual assault of a Muslim girl by the Christian man Girgis Baroumi Girgis in the town of Farshout last November. This alleged rape crime was used by security officials, politicians, and the media to justify attacks against Copts in Farshout last November and in Nag Hammadi .
Surprisingly, Prosecutor-general Adbel Meguid Mahmoud, also came out linking the killing to the rape.
Egyptian police arrested three suspects responsible for the Christmas Eve shootings, Mohamed el-Kamony, Korshy Aly and Hendawy Hassan, who are registered criminals. Habib el-Adly, Minister of Interior, said on January 24, in an interview on the Egyptian TV programme "City Talk" that el-Kamony is a hired killer, but "he got so upset about the rape and the videos of nude Muslim girls with Christian men, that it triggered the shooting urge in him."
Mustafaal-Sayyed, professor of political science at Cairo, University believes that the theory of a revenge killing does not hold because the three men charged with the killings are not relatives of the raped girl. "Why would they choose to shoot at Copts on their Christmas eve?" he asked.
Renowned activist Fathi Farid told Coptic News in an aired interview on January 19 the authorities are trying to make a scapegoat out of Baroumi to justify the violations against the Copts in Egypt. "If they can prove that Girgis is guilty then they can say that what happened on Christmas Eve is a reaction to what he did."
On November 18, 2009, the 21-year-old Girgis Baroumi Girgis, a poultry vendor from Kom al-Ahmar village, near Farshout, was accused by the 12-year-old Muslim girl Yusra Abdelwahab from the neighboring village of al-Shukeifi , of sexually assaulting her. Claims of the assault led to several days of unrest in the area caused by hundreds of Muslim protesters looting and burning Christian property. State Securiy also forced the eviction of 160 Christians from Baroumi's village (AINA 11-22-2009, 11-23-2009).
Girgis has been detained since last November but not charged and the forensic report of the assault was never published, which some observers say means no evidence could be found against him.
At very short notice Girgis Baroumi's trial began on January 17, at the Qena Criminal Court, nearly 600 kilometers (370 miles) south of Cairo. Shocked and crying incessantly during the whole session, Girgis kept on pleading "Sir, I need a lawyer." He denied committing the crime. His Muslim defense lawyer had to withdraw at the very last minute, and no other lawyer agreed to defend him, when the presiding judge asked the lawyers present. The case had to be postponed until January 19 to find a lawyer.
As a result, the Egyptian Organization for Anti- Discrimination and Defense of Children's Rights (EGHR) issued a statement that together with the American Coptic Friendship Association, it will be taking over the defense of Girgis Baroumi Girgis to counteract the "interference of State Security in the role of the judiciary and their efforts to influence it." It also condemned the biased media and the intervention of some security heads to pressure any lawyer considering defending Baroumi.
Two of the EGHR members, Ashraf Edward and Saeed Abdelmassih, volunteered to defend Baroumi and attended the court session on January 19.
Ashraf Edward said they traveled from Cairo "under great secrecy for safety reasons and because they feared that State Security might delay them from appearing in court."
"The Lawyers' Syndicate in Qena refused to assign a lawyer, and Coptic lawyers are under great pressure and are terrorized by the State Security," said Saeed Abdelmassih. "If Ashraf Edward had not volunteered to defend him, the situation would have been critical."
The judge adjourned the trial until 17 February.
"The State Security is telling us lawyers that whatever your religion or inclinations are, you are not able to defend one defendant, to the extent that not one lawyer had the courage to attend, so we had to get a lawyer from Cairo," commented Abdelmassih bitterly.
News media reported that a defense team of 25 lawyers, headed by Islamist lawyer Mohamed el Wahsh, have volunteered to defend the killer el-Kamony.
Talaat Sadat, MP and a vehement critic of the government said on the Cairo Today talk show that the allegedly raped Yousra was never a virgin, but was previously "used". He was voicing rumors that Yusra has previously been raped by one of her relatives, and that is the reason behind the case remaining unresolved since November. Many activists believe that State Security manufactured evidence against Baroumi to make their case against him stick to justify their interpretation of the massacre of Nag Hammadi.
According to Abdelmassih forensics only examined the girl and said she was not virgin, but said nothing of when she had lost her virginity. They omitted examining Baroumi altogether. A difference existed between the police and the prosecution reports. In the preliminary police report the girl and her father said there was 'an attempt' on the part of Girgis to take her clothes off. "All this changed went it went to the prosecution; instead of the matter being 'taking off clothes' it changed to sexual intercourse."
He said that what was more surprising was that the investigating officer validated the incident based on what a 12-year-old said, without even one witness.
Girgis Baroumi's lawyers requested a forensic specialist to examine 12-year-old girl Yusra and conduct a new interview with the officer who filed the police report.
"We have Inconsistencies in statements, not one single evidence, and no lawyer was present during investigations of the prosecution, because lawyers were afraid to attend to defend a citizen," said Abdelmassih.
Public opinion in Egypt became so conditioned that Baroumi is guilty before being tried, and the majority are calling for the death penalty to be applied in his case, said most of those interviewed.
EGHR called upon the Egyptian Lawyers' Syndicate to form a committee to monitor the conduct of the investigations in the Baroumi case, as it did previously during the case of the Veil Martyr Marwa El-Sherbini.
"Girgis Baroumi is a victim of circumstances which has led him to stand trial before the court and the community at the same time," said his defense attorney Ashraf Edward.
By Mary Abdelmassih