Retrial of 96 Egyptians Over Sectarian Massacre Adjourned for “a More Thorough Study’
The retrial of 96 people for alleged involvement in a massacre that left 20 Christians and a Muslim dead over the millennium New Year opened Saturday at the Sohag criminal court in southern Egypt only to be postponed for at least another two months, reported AFP.
The court session opened without 15 of the accused, who provided no justification for their absence, said the agency.
Magistrate Lofti Salman decided to adjourn the hearing in order to allow a more thorough study of the case and said it would be announced in January when the trial was due to resume.
The 81 accused present in Sohag Saturday all pleaded not guilty and were allowed to return home after the hearing.
On Jul 30, Egypt's cassation court ordered the defendants -- 58 Muslims and 38 Coptic Christians -- to be retried in a different chamber of the criminal court in Sohag, 500 kilometres (300 miles) south of Cairo, that first tried them in February.
Sentences had then ranged from only one to 12 years in jail with hard labour, while the other 92 were acquitted. Of the four convicted, none was found guilty of murder but only of lesser charges such as manslaughter, arms possession and assault.
Egypt's Coptic clerics had condemned the verdict of the first trial as sending a signal for the country's Muslim majority to kill Christians.
Sohag is just north of Kosheh where the massacre erupted on December 31, 1999 and lasted two days, sparked by a minor trade dispute between a Christian and a Muslim.
Copts account for around five million of Egypt's 66 million population, according to official statistics. The Coptic Church says its flock numbers around 10 million – Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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