Egypt Attempts to Convict Christian to Justify Muslim Riots
By Mary Abdelmassih
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(AINA) -- The high profile criminal trial of 21-year-old Christian Copt Girgis Baroumi, accused of sexually assaulting a Muslim girl, is viewed by the Coptic community as an example of how the Egyptian government, using all its organs, including the Attorney General, Interior Minister and Parliament Speaker, has conspired to use him as a scapegoat to justify deadly Muslim assaults on Christians.

Girgis Baroumi, a traveling poultry vendor, is believed to have been framed by State Security (AINA 1-28-2010) in order to use the crime as a pretext for the 3-day rampage by Muslim mobs on Christians in Farshout in November 2009 (AINA 11-22-2009), and most importantly to depict the Christmas Eve Massacre of six Copts in Nag Hammadi in January 2010 as an honor crime rather than a sectarian one.

The criminal court in Qena witnessed on December 13 another stormy session when Baroumi's defense team withdrew from the trial to protest the court's rejection of several requests made to the court over the year, which are vital to prove the defendant's innocence. "This decision was taken in view of these and other requests made at previous sessions, which indicated the lack of a fair and just trial for the accused," said Dr. Chafik, one of the team attorneys who withdrew from the case. "The direction of the court towards the case is not inclined towards Baroumi's innocence but have closely associated it with the crime of Nag Hammadi."

Although the defense team withdrew from the trial the court insisted the defense present its case, so four of the attorneys present withdrew in protest and three remained to plead. "If they all withdrew as intended, the court would appoint other lawyers who might damage the case," said defense attorney George Sobhy.

The Defense had requested an independent medical examination of the defendant, a certificate from the conscription department with the results of his medical examination which led to his rejection from conscription and a survey by court of the crime scene.

All three requests were rejected by the court. "To us it feels like the case is taking a religious orientation and the court plans to hand down a guilty verdict, despite the lack of any evidence, material or otherwise, to convict him," said defense attorney Dr. Siham Abdel-Malak.

Dr. Chafik expressed concern regarding the prosecutor using inflammatory religious language during the proceedings. "The prosecutor accused Baroumi of being the cause of the sectarian strife which took place in Farshout in November 2009, as well as the death of the Copts on Coptic Christmas Eve [Nag Hammadi Massacre] in January 2010, as we predicted all along that he would."

He said the prosecutor cited a more recent case of Al-Nawahed village, "saying that those who cause sectarian strife ought to be killed or crucified -- invoking Sharia Hirabah Penalty. These discriminatory religious expressions in punishment, as well as religious discrimination in criminal proceedings, require us to take a stance, in order to combat religious discrimination in criminal justice."

Attorney Dr. Hanna Hanna said "The prosecutor's statements included some Islamic terms that are far away from the terms of criminal law."

Sobhy believes there are certain forces at play to get Baroumi convicted. "If the court does not change its attitude, we expect Girgis Baroumi to be given the maximum penalty."

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