(AINA) -- A Military court in Egypt has sentenced three Christian Copts to 5-years imprisonment on charges of possession of firearms and pocket knives. The Court released all other Muslims and Copts arrested following clashes on May 19 over the re-opening of St. Mary and St. Abraham churches in Ain Shams West (AINA 5-24-2011). Copts Emad Ayyad and Ayman Youssef Halim were convicted of carrying firearms. Emad Ayyam's son, Ayad Emad Ayad, was convicted of carrying a pocket knife.
Eight Copts, mostly students, were arrested in Ain Shams West and charged with rioting, violence and causing injury to citizens. Three of the Copts were also charged with possession of firearms and knives. Police arrested three under-age Muslims on charges of throwing stones at the army.
Defense lawyer Abraham Edward said "This is a very unjust, severe and cruel verdict." He said that as lawyers they are unable to fathom what is going on. "Today's case is very strange, a case where there is not one shred of evidence to indict them. If this case went in front of the International Court of Justice they would all be set free." He criticized the five-year prison sentence handed down to Ayad Emad Ayad for carrying a pocket knife. According to the law this is punishable by a six months suspended sentence.
Emad Ayyad said he was looking down the street from his balcony and saw his son Ayad Emad Ayad arguing with an officer, so he went down to see his son. The officer took him together with his son and shoved them in the police armored car along with a black handbag which belonged to the officer, as evidence to use against them. The police did not say how the weapons were confiscated from them. According to forensics no shots were fired from the weapons.
Edward said the defense team was advised they could petition the military governor for a retrial, which they have already done.
The three Muslims who were released all minors were represented by the Coptic defense team which asked for their release, especially a 14-year-old boy who was released on the same day.
Mr. Hitham Refaat Shaker, one of the defense attorneys, said in an interview on May 23 that he is sure the charges were fabricated against the Copts. "It is impossible to imagine the incident as described by the officer who wrote the report, that the Christians threw stones at other Christians in order to accuse Muslims of doing it" (video).
The Military Council pressured the Copts to call off their 13-day sit-in in Maspero, Cairo "in exchange for the release of five of the eight Copts arrested, while the release of the other three would be negotiated once the sit-in ended," said Father Mattias Nasr, head organizer of the Maspero sit-in.