Egyptian Christians Enraged Over Court Acquittal in Christmas Eve Massacre
By Mary Abdelmassih
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(AINA) -- The Egyptian Emergency State Security Court in Qena acquitted today two of the three suspects in the Christmas Eve Massacre in Nag Hammadi in January, 2010, where six Coptics, between the ages of 16 to 23, were shot and killed by Muslims in a drive-by shooting. The Copts were killed as they filed out of Church after celebrating the Coptic Christmas Eve midnight mass in Nag Hammadi, 600km south of Cairo A Muslim bystander was also killed and nine Copts were seriously injured (AINA 1-7-2010).

The three Muslims accused of the shootings were Mohamed Ahmed Hussein, more commonly known as Hamam el-Kamouny, Qurshi Abul Haggag and Hendawi Sayyed. Mohamed Ahmed Hussein, 39, was sentenced to death by the court on January 16 and the other two were acquitted today. The defendants were charged with using force to disrupt public order and intimidate citizens, with the premeditated murder of seven people, illegal possession of fire arms, the attempted murder of nine others, and voluntarily damaging fixed and liquid assets.

Bishop Cyril, the Coptic Orthodox bishop of Nag Hammadi, said "The court imposed one death sentence because one Muslim was killed, and the Egyptian judiciary wasted the blood of the six murdered Copts, who are of no value to the society. This verdict saddened all Christians worldwide because it means that the State is applying Islamic Sharia on all Christians in Egypt." He explained that according to Sharia the blood of one Muslim, victim Ayman Hisham, is paid for by the blood of one Muslim, Al-Kamouny; since one Muslim died, one Muslim got the death penalty.

Bishop Cyril said that according to the law an accomplice to a crime is on equal standing to the person who committed the crime. "So where is this law and why has it been by-passed in this case and why have the two accomplices been an acquitted?" He said that this verdict brought back sadness and pain to the families of the victims who expected the second suspect to have been sentenced to life imprisonment -- if not the death penalty -- and the third at least fifteen-year imprisonment, but not an acquittal. "This is why we know that in Egypt the blood of a Christian is worth nothing."

Bishop Cyril accused the judge of being unjust and said he is contacting the lawyers to discuss the possibility of presenting an appeal to the military governor. "Had I not reported seeing killer Al-Kamouny he would have been acquitted like the rest of the previous acquittal cases."

According to the Bishop, Pope Shenouda III is very sadden by this verdict.

Mr. Kamal Nashed, father of 19-year-old law student Abanob, who died in the massacre, told Coptic activist Mariam Ragy "The ruling shocked us and was unjust. If the three participated in the killing they should all have received the same verdict." Nashed said that today's verdict was unjust. "I want justice for my son and will go after it till my very last day whether in Egypt or abroad."

Attorney George Sobhy, one of the Coptic lawyers in charge of the case, said the verdict was unjust "to the blood of the youth that was shed on the streets of Nag Hammadi." He said that investigations confirmed the second and third suspects were accomplices of Al-Kamouny, even the court described them as such . "We were shocked that the court acquitted them, we expected life imprisonment for the second accomplice and 15 years for the third. "Today's court looked as if it had the intention of giving acquittals to all the accused. I believe that had Al-Kamouny not been already given the death sentence on January 16, the court today may have given him also an acquittal."

Sobhy said that due to the present circumstances of lack of adequate security, none of the accused were brought to court, and families of the victims and the media were absent. "The court seized the opportunity of the present circumstances and quickly handed down this verdict, as if it was a normal criminal case."

Since the court is a State Security Court, only the prosecution has the right of appeal, but they would apply to the Prosecutor General to appeal this verdict. "People think the police is corrupt," she said, " but after 20 years of practice as a lawyer, I can confirm the most corrupt organ in the system is the Egyptian judiciary."

Sobhy said that he received hundreds of calls from people disappointed with the verdict. "Most comments I got from those people were that everyone thought that after the January 25 Revolution things would change, but unfortunately corruption is rooted to the core everywhere. This verdict only proves that what is being talked about lately of equality, justice and freedom of religious belief is just empty talk. If our constitution has sharia law embedded in it, then the bitter truth is that as Christians we have no place or value in this country."

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