Imprisonment of Christians in Egypt Criticized by Persecution Group

Human rights activists have condemned the sentencing of two Coptic Christians to three years imprisonment in the Maspero massacre case.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reports that a Criminal Court in Cairo sentenced Michael Farag and Michael Shaker to three years imprisonment for "stealing a soldier's machine gun" - a property of the Egyptian Armed forces - during the bloodiest crackdown on Coptic protesters in Egypt, in October 2011.

Maspero was a peaceful march outside state television building to protest attacks on a Coptic community in south of Egypt where a church was destroyed.

During the clashes 24 Christian demonstrators died, shot or crushed to death under military armored vehicles. There were over 200 injured.

Andrew Johnston, Advocacy Director at Christian Solidarity Worldwide told BosNewsLife that his organization remains "deeply concerned" as the quality of the evidence brought against the two Coptic defendants "appears insufficient to justify a guilty verdict."

The advocacy group also said that Michael Farag was initially arrested at his home on November 3, 2011 and that the prosecution claimed that the taxi driver who had driven him home [from Maspero] had seen him carrying a gun bundled in a plastic bag.

"The only evidence brought against him [Michael Farag] at trial was the word of the taxi driver," CSW said.

According to the Maspero Youth Organisation, which represents victims' families, the court documents did not included the autopsy reports showing that 12 of the victims were crushed by armed vehicles and 16 died from gunshot wounds.

Johnston argues that 15 months after "the Maspero Massacre" many questions remain unanswered about the actions of the Military Police on October 9, 2011, and that "justice continues to elude the families of the civilian victims who died at the hands of the army.

Johnston confirmed that CSW is determined to continue calling for a "full, transparent and independent judicial inquiry" into the Maspero Massacre, including an "investigation of the allegedly inciting role played by state media."