Egypt: President & forces hauled for anti-Christian violence

April 17, 2013 by  
Filed under newsletter-world

Human Rights Watch has called on the Egyptian authorities to bring to justice those responsible for violence in which several Christians were killed, as two more were added to the death toll.

Egyptian riot policeEgypt, April 15, 2013: The leading human rights organisation said that the police failed to intervene effectively to prevent an escalation of the violence outside St Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo on 7 April, and presented evidence of riot police complicity with the Muslim aggressors.

Mahrous Hanna Ibrahim, a 30-year-old Christian man, was shot dead and 89 people wounded in the assault on a funeral procession for four Christians killed in earlier violence in al-Khosous.

Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said:

The authorities urgently need to get to the bottom of the violence at Khosous and at the subsequent funerals, and bring all those responsible to justice, promptly and fairly. President Morsi should ask his police chief why the police failed to uphold the law and protect those under attack, and insist the chief take steps to ensure that the police do their job in future.

The country’s Islamist president and security services have also been sharply criticised by the leader of the 9 million-strong Coptic Church, Pope Tawadros II. He said it was the “first time in the history of Egypt that an attack takes place on the headquarters of the Coptic Church and this incident is surrounded by many question marks”.

RIOT POLICE COMPLICITY

Evidence has come to light that riot police fired tear gas at the mourners, causing some people to pass out. Footage taken by an Egyptian newspaper shows riot police complying with apparent directions from men who were throwing stones at the cathedral to shoot tear gas at the building. And one journalist reported seeing an armed man climb onto a roof and open fire in the direction of the cathedral in full view of around 30 security force officers, who made no attempt to stop or arrest him.

On 12 April, four Christians who had attended the funeral were arrested; they were in the grounds of the cathedral when it came under attack. One of them was detained by special forces, who stormed his apartment at 6am.

Another Christian has also been killed in al-Khosous, where renewed violence broke out at the same time as the attack on the funeral. Dawood Kamel, a father of four young children with a fifth on the way, was stabbed to death. Eight other people were injured.

On Thursday (11 April), Saber Helal, a 26-year-old Christian, succumbed to the severe burns he had sustained during the original clashes in al-Khosous. He had been doused in kerosene and set alight.

Christians have long suffered acts of violence at the hands of Egypt’s Muslim majority; these have intensified since the revolution. Human Rights Watch said that there had been at least five incidents of sectarian violence since Morsi was elected in June 2012, but there have been no prosecutions in connection with any of them.

The organisation called on the president to address one of the underlying causes of tension between Muslims and Christians in Egypt: restrictions over the renovation or construction of churches that are not applied to mosques.

Mr Houry said: For years people have been getting away with sectarian murder and he should break that cycle of impunity. Then he should reform laws that discriminate against Christians’ right to worship.

– barnabas team

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