Christian human rights group praises Egyptian action - news from ekklesia

By staff writers
April 15, 2004

Christian human rights group praises Egyptian action

-15/4/04

A Christian human rights group is praising prompt police action in a recent episode that could have resulted in sectarian violence.

A Muslim man allegedly murdered two Christians with an axe after an argument broke out in the southern town of Salamoun, Sohag province, on March 5, according to reports from Reuters and AP.

It is not clear whether the incident, which left Sadeq Fekhry Mehana, 52, and Sidqi Mahana, 50, dead, was religiously motivated.

The following day, the Egyptian authorities deployed some 1,000 police around the town to prevent a possible outbreak of sectarian violence.

The town is nearly 40 percent Coptic Christian, but was also a stronghold of militant Islamists who fought the government during the 1990s.

Coptic Bishop Wissa of Baliana Diocese, which includes the village of El Kosheh, said: ìIt is time the Egyptian government showed seriousness and fairness by punishing the perpetrators of attacks against Christians. The message from the government should be clear this time. Attacks on Christians must stop.î

The area is renowned for sectarian unrest, the latest major episode occurring in January 2000, when 21 Christians and a Muslim lost their lives in clashes.

Youssef Sidhom, Chief Editor of Watani newspaper, commented: ìSuch an accident adds to the growing accumulation of bitterness and grievances of helpless Christians in Upper Egypt,î noting that they were watching with interest to see if the perpetrator would be charged.

This incident is reminiscent of the murder of two Christians in 1998. Police were accused of rounding up hundreds of Coptic Christians, torturing many to extract confessions.

Christian Shaiboub William Arsal was charged with the murders and sentenced in June 2000 to 15 years with hard labour.

Stuart Windsor, National Director of human rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said: ìOur thoughts are with the families of these two men who were so brutally murdered. We call on the Egyptian authorities to ensure that justice is brought swiftly and fairly to the perpetrator of these horrific attacks.

ìThe swift recruitment of police following this incident is a welcome development, indicating the Egyptian authorities are serious about tackling previous episodes of police negligence and complicity in sectarian violence.î

However, CSW remains concerned that nearly four years after his initial sentencing, Shaiboub William Arsal is still awaiting appeal and that those responsible for the deaths in January 2000 have not been brought to account.

CSW is calling for Shaiboubís appeal to be heard quickly and fairly, for all evidence relating to his case to be thoroughly examined and for the police officers involved in the investigation and subsequent torture of Christians, including Shaiboub and his young son, to be brought to justice.

CSW is also urging the Egyptian authorities to ensure that the second retrial of those accused of the January 2000 murders is held promptly and that all relevant evidence is made available to the court.

Christian human rights group praises Egyptian action

-15/4/04

A Christian human rights group is praising prompt police action in a recent episode that could have resulted in sectarian violence.

A Muslim man allegedly murdered two Christians with an axe after an argument broke out in the southern town of Salamoun, Sohag province, on March 5, according to reports from Reuters and AP.

It is not clear whether the incident, which left Sadeq Fekhry Mehana, 52, and Sidqi Mahana, 50, dead, was religiously motivated.

The following day, the Egyptian authorities deployed some 1,000 police around the town to prevent a possible outbreak of sectarian violence.

The town is nearly 40 percent Coptic Christian, but was also a stronghold of militant Islamists who fought the government during the 1990s.

Coptic Bishop Wissa of Baliana Diocese, which includes the village of El Kosheh, said: ìIt is time the Egyptian government showed seriousness and fairness by punishing the perpetrators of attacks against Christians. The message from the government should be clear this time. Attacks on Christians must stop.î

The area is renowned for sectarian unrest, the latest major episode occurring in January 2000, when 21 Christians and a Muslim lost their lives in clashes.

Youssef Sidhom, Chief Editor of Watani newspaper, commented: ìSuch an accident adds to the growing accumulation of bitterness and grievances of helpless Christians in Upper Egypt,î noting that they were watching with interest to see if the perpetrator would be charged.

This incident is reminiscent of the murder of two Christians in 1998. Police were accused of rounding up hundreds of Coptic Christians, torturing many to extract confessions.

Christian Shaiboub William Arsal was charged with the murders and sentenced in June 2000 to 15 years with hard labour.

Stuart Windsor, National Director of human rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said: ìOur thoughts are with the families of these two men who were so brutally murdered. We call on the Egyptian authorities to ensure that justice is brought swiftly and fairly to the perpetrator of these horrific attacks.

ìThe swift recruitment of police following this incident is a welcome development, indicating the Egyptian authorities are serious about tackling previous episodes of police negligence and complicity in sectarian violence.î

However, CSW remains concerned that nearly four years after his initial sentencing, Shaiboub William Arsal is still awaiting appeal and that those responsible for the deaths in January 2000 have not been brought to account.

CSW is calling for Shaiboubís appeal to be heard quickly and fairly, for all evidence relating to his case to be thoroughly examined and for the police officers involved in the investigation and subsequent torture of Christians, including Shaiboub and his young son, to be brought to justice.

CSW is also urging the Egyptian authorities to ensure that the second retrial of those accused of the January 2000 murders is held promptly and that all relevant evidence is made available to the court.

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.