Egyptian Parliament Commission Overturns Coptic Eviction Decree
By Mary Abdelmassih
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(AINA) -- A public meeting was held on February 16 in Alexandria, after the fact-finding commission delegated by parliament went to investigate the facts surrounding the decision made on February 1 by a village tribunal, composed of villagers and parliamentary members, mostly from Salafi and Muslim Brotherhood parties, to forcibly evict eight Coptic families from Sharbat village (Ameriya), in Alexandria, and seize their property, based on allegations of a video clip of an illicit relationship between a Coptic man and a Muslim woman (AINA 2-9-2012).

The fact-finding commission, made up of two Copts, two Liberals and the Salafi members of parliament, Shaikh Sherif Hawary, who was responsible for the tribunal of February 1, met with representatives of the evicted Coptic families, the tribunal's members and two priests.

The commission issued a statement at the public meeting, which was attended by village residents, that all Coptic families are to return to their homes, and nullified the rulings of the tribunal of February 1.

The commission asked for the safe return of the Abaskhayron Suleiman families to their homes, stressing their legal rights and the rule of law, which does not conflict with Sharia. The committee said the Suleimans have the right to reside in their own village. The Suleimans were not involved in any way with the alleged video clip, but were still evicted.

The commission deferred a decision on the return of the three families of the Coptic man Mourad Girguis, accused of having the video clip in question, and the Muslims who burned down the homes of Christians, leaving these matters for the judiciary to decide.

Attorney Marian Malak, a member of the commission, said the purpose of the meeting was to set a date for the return of the Christian families back to the village, through a consensus among the people of Ameriya, but the issue of compensation to affected Copts have not yet been resolved.

Sherif Hawary, member of Parliament for Ameriya, said there was a split among the members of the commission about the term "eviction," pointing out that members of the tribunal described the departure of some Christian families to be for security reasons and fear for their own lives, while a number of other members insisted on describing what happened as eviction. Hawary prevailed and the committee statement said the Christians left the village for security reasons.

After the reading of the statement, heated arguments broke out between some members of the delegation of the Maspero Coptic Youth Union and the parliamentary commission regarding the failure of the police to arrest the perpetrators and instigators of the torching and looting of Coptic homes during the violence on January 27th and 30th (AINA 1-28-2012). The commission said that prosecution had issued arrest warrants for some of the defendants. The Maspero delegation also asked about the woman accused of having a relationship with Mourad Girguis, as records of the prosecution investigations failed to identify her, as well as the absence of photos to prove the incident actually took place.

A question during the meeting was raised regarding whether the return of the families includes also the Mourad Girguis family, but Sheikh Sherif Hawari said that they will not come back, since what Mourad did was an "outrageous act."

Mourad Girguis was released on bail on February 15, after having been charged with spreading false rumors. Mohammad Toema, the barber who started the rumor, was also released on bail.

"The video about a Muslim woman was not found," said member of Parliament Dr. Emad Gad, "and there is no evidence of the woman having existed. This proves that, as suspected, the accusations were fabricated in order to forcibly evict Mourad Girguis and his family from the village."

The commission will present its findings to Parliament on Sunday.

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