Egyptian Christians are extremely upset that the government has again delayed the trial of three Muslims who are accused of killing six Christian youths celebrating Christmas Eve.
It is the second time the Egyptian government has postponed the trial of the three men: Hammam al-Qomy, Oreshi Abul Hagag and Hindawi Sayed Hassan. The first delay was on Feb. 13, when the judge adjourned the trial until March 20.
The new trial date is April 18.
“They have postponed the trial twice, and they are going to postpone it again and again,” said Wagih Yacoub, a Coptic human rights activists, to International Christian Concern. “This is what we worry about. Soon the case will die… and all of a sudden we will wake up one day, and the guys will be innocent, and they will walk around on the street again after killing six kids at the Christmas mass.”
“The Copts are furious about this postponement,” he said. “We reject it and demand an immediate trial.”
Coptic and Eastern Orthodox Christians were celebrating their Christmas Eve on Jan. 6 when several cars carrying gunmen opened fire on people exiting the church in the upper Egypt town of Nag Hammadi.
Six Christians were killed. Another nine were injured. Among those killed were a young man and his fiancé and a 14-year-old boy. Most of those killed were young men in their 20s.
The Christmas Eve attack was the worst assault on Copts in Egypt since January 2000, when 21 Christians were killed in sectarian violence.
“ICC predicts that once the murders of these Coptic Christians in Nag Hammadi are forgotten, the judge will issue a light sentence, perhaps one to five years imprisonment with bail, and then the murderers will be released back onto the streets,” commented Aidan Clay, ICC regional manager of the Middle East, on Tuesday.
He added, “We have seen this occur time and again. Egyptian Muslims who kill Christians in Egypt continue to do so because they are fully aware that their crime will almost always go unpunished.”
Egypt’s Christian population makes up eight to 12 percent of the overall population.
Despite their sizeable number in the country, the Christian community in Egypt, which consists of mostly Coptic Christians, are marginalized in society and reportedly suffer from violent forms of abuse. They also lack fair representation in the government, leading to further abuse of the minority group.
Islam is the “religion of the state” and the country's “principle source of legislation,” according to Egypt’s constitution.
Since 2002, Egypt has been on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s “Watch List” for its serious religious freedom violations, including widespread problems of discrimination, intolerance, and other human rights violations against members of religious minorities.
“In recent months, we have seen thousands of Coptic Christians around the world take to the streets in protest against the criminal acts of their government,” said Clay. “Let us not see this fervor end, but let us continue to speak out by demanding justice and equality for Egypt’s Christians.”