(AINA) -- In Egypt an often used defense by Muslims accused of killing Christians is insanity. According to said Coptic activist Maged Bishay, "Islamist investigators, judges and psychiatrists are only too willing to go with this pretext, to allow their fellow Muslims to 'get away with murder' based on the Islamic law 'Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is an oppressed one.'"
One of the latest examples if the insanity defense was the murder of the Coptic Christian deacon George Fathi, who was killed in Alexandria on October 6, 2009, deliberately and with premeditation, by two fundamentalist brothers, 21-year-old Mohamed Abdel-Moneim and his 17-year-old brother Ahmed.
The two brothers visited George in his flat at mid-day, strangled and electrocuted him until his intestines burst out. His father, who was sitting in a coffee house facing their flat, saw smoke coming out and when he opened the door he found his son dead and disfigured. The killers opened a butane cylinder and made a fire to cause an explosion but this was averted by the father and neighbors, who testified having seen three bearded men enter the flat earlier.
When the Abdel-Moneim brothers were arrested, they said the victim tried to sexually assault them, so they killed him in self-defense. The 17-year old brother was released for being under-age and handed over to his family.
The media, orchestrated by statements issued by the Egyptian State Security, immediately propagated the claim of sexual assault and, as expected, it found support and empathy for the killer from the Muslim public.
"The accused tried to take us down this path but the investigation found no evidence that deacon George practiced homosexuality," said Mokbel Sobhy, the victim's family attorney. "I will file lawsuits against those newspapers for defamation of character."
Friends of George Fathi said that he was known all over Alexandria for proselytizing Christianity, and the reason behind his killing was that he helped the sister of the Abdel-Moneim brothers convert to Christianity, and they killed him in retaliation.
During a court session on January 24, 2010, the lawyer for the defendant argued that the defendant Mohamed is suffering from mental illness and was not responsible for his actions, and asked for his client to be referred to psychiatric assessment to determine whether he was competent. The court accepted this request and adjourned the hearing until 4/24/2010.
On April 24, 2010 the presiding judge stated the psychiatric assessment of Mohamed Abdel-Moneim confirmed that he was suffering from insanity. The lawyers of the victim requested to question the doctor who issued the report and to refer the defendant to a psychiatric committee. The judge said they could choose on of the two requests, so they chose the latter.
On September 16, 2009, 35-year-old car painter Osama Araban (El-Bohyagi) went to the village of Bahgour, stabbed 63-year old Coptic Christian Abdo George Younan nine times until his intestines fell out, then severed his head from his body -- an Islamic ritual beheading. He washed his bloody bayonet with the water hose which the victim was previously using, before setting off on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle, to stab with intention to kill, two other Copts in two different villages, at least 10 km apart. When arrested, he confessed fully to his crime (AINA 9-21-2009).
Renowned attorney and activist Dr.Naguib Ghoraeel, head of Egyptian Union Human Rights Organization, issued a press release on September 17, accusing the Interior Ministry of lying by suggesting the incident "is a mere quarrel," and warned them that no one will believe that the murderer is "mentally unstable," should they use this defense.
In November 2009, Osama was referred to a psychiatric hospital for assessment, Mr. Ahmed Kelany, lawyer of the family of the beheaded victim, in an interview with The Freecopts said that "the assailant resorting to mental disorder is an attempt to escape the penalty for his crime, which is premeditated murder. This was confirmed by all the circumstances and the eyewitness testimonies."
Another high-profile case which had the same ending, took place in Alexandria on April 14, 2006, during the last day of the Holy Lent. A series of knife attacks at three Alexandria churches resulted in the death of a 63-year-old Christian man, Noshi Girgis, and injuries to several other Christians. An attack on a fourth church was foiled. Witnesses said that the assailant called out Jihad chants during the attacks. The interior ministry claimed that only one man was responsible for the attacks and named Mahmoud Salah-Eddin Abdel-Raziq, 25, and described him as "psychologically disturbed", even before his arrest. "This was a way to close the case file before investigations have started," commented activist Mark Naguib at the time.
Christians were enraged by the government's scenario that Abdel-Raziq had attacked alone three churches, miles away from each other, by walking and using public transport, all in the same morning. This version of events contradicted earlier police reports which told of three simultaneous attacks and that three men who were involved in these attacks had been arrested. Most Copts believed that it was an Islamist pre-planned attack, carried out by more than one person.
During the funeral of the murdered Copt Noshi, clashes between Muslims who were hurling stones and Christians took place, leading to arrests on both sides. The way the government dealt with this case sparked global condemnation and Coptic rallies worldwide.
Freecopts reported on Al Jazeera News report aired on April 14th, detailing the attacks on the churches and naming four different Muslim perpetrators, which corresponded with the description of the assailants given by witnesses in the different churches.
On June 29, 2006 Egypt's prosecutor-general ordered Mahmoud Abdel-Raziq to be committed to a mental hospital after a medical evaluation and without trial, the duration of his incarceration was not specified. No news was ever heard of him after that.
Rasha Nour, head of Egypt4Christ advocacy, believes there are many "insanity" incidents which are not reported by the police; on presentation of a medical certificate, sometimes supplied by the police, the assailant is then released after the Coptic victim is forced by them to sign a reconciliation note.
By Mary Abdelmassih