Appeal Date Set for Christian Unjustly Punished Following Mob Attack

ICC Note: An appeal hearing is scheduled on March 12th in the incident known as the Etfeeh Church Case. Following a mob attack against a church in December, the court had lightly fined those responsible for the mob attack and instead heavily fined Copt Eid Attiya Ibrahim on the charge of erecting a non-licensed church building. The church, however, was in the process of obtaining a license. It is not unusual for the authorities to unjustly punish Christians even when they are the victims of persecution.

03/11/2018 Egypt (Wataninet) – In an unexpected move, the prosecution of al-Saff, Giza, appealed the ruling by Giza Misdemeanours Court in the case known as the ‘Etfeeh church case’. The court had handed the Copt Eid Attiya Ibrahim, charged with erecting a non-licensed building in the village of Kafr al-Wassleen in Etfeeh, Giza, a suspended sentence of one year in prison and a fine of EGP360,000; and sentenced 19 Muslim defendants each charged with mobbing, beating, using religion to stoke sectarian sedition, and breaking into and destroying the property of Copts to a one-year suspended sentence and a fine of EGP500 each.

Mr Said Mounir, member of defence team of Mr Attiya, described that the appeal as rather unexpected, but welcomed it since he said the first ruling was “unjust”. Obviously, the assailants had been handed too-lenient sentences, he said, whereas the Copt who did not own the non-licensed building in the first place got a very harsh sentence. Mr Mounir had himself appealed the case.

The case will be seen in court on 12 March.

The story goes back to last December when, following Friday noon prayers, hundreds of Muslim villagers in Kafr al-Wassleen gathered in front of the small building used by the village Copts as a de-facto church for some 15 years. The Muslim mobsters screamed the Islamic chant of Allahu Akbar (Allah is the Greatest) and hostile cries that called for bringing the church down. They broke into the building, injuring three Copts, destroying everything inside, and throwing out the Bibles and religious objects. The Coptic villagers claimed the attack came in the wake of a rumour circulated in the village that they intended to install a bell in their church.

The police arrived, dispersed the assailants, and the injured were moved to hospital. The Copt Eid Attiya Ibrahim, who had previously owned the church building before selling it to the Church, was among the injured.

The police charged 19 Muslim villagers with mobbing, beating, using religion to stoke sectarian sedition, and breaking into and destroying the property of others. The Copt, Eid Attiya Ibrahim, was charged with erecting a building without licence. Mr Ibrahim had constructed the building as a village house but later sold it to the Church which converted it into the de-facto church of al-Amir Tadros.

The bishopric of Etfeeh submitted documents to the court proving that the building in question was a church owned by the bishopric. The de-facto church is unlicensed, owing to the near impossibility of obtaining official licence to build a church prior to the 2016 law for building churches. Once this law was passed, however, Etfeeh bishopric applied to legalise the status of al-Amir Tadros’s according to the new law.

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