09/30/2020 Egypt (International Christian Concern) – On Sunday, an Egyptian court determined November 9th as the date for reviewing the appeal of defendant Ahmed Saeed al-Sunbati, who murdered a priest in October 2017. The priest, Father Samaan Shehata, was from Beni Suef and traveling to collect donations for his church.
The defense argues that Ahmed is mentally ill and for this reason is appealing the death penalty given by the Cairo court. The prosecution argues that the murder was premeditated and that Ahmed is a proven Islamic extremist. This dynamic shows a tension which is commonly displayed in such incidents. Egypt is an officially Islamic country, and Christians live there as an albeit large minority group. When Christians are openly targeted by individuals, such as what happened in this case, the Islamic extremism which motivated the attack is ignored and a defense of mental instability is made. This often leads to a reduction of the penalty, if one is even applied.
Egypt’s history with extremism includes significant influence from the Muslim Brotherhood, which is now officially banned by the government. However, this does not mean that the authorities have addressed the root causes of Islamic extremism. They have not set the example of religious plurality, and the authorities maintain policies which regulate Christians to second class citizen status. Delayed court cases where Christians are the defendant, or pressuring Christians to reconcile with their attackers rather than hold them accountable in a court of law, is common.
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