Thirty-nine Muslims on Trial for Communal Strife in Southern Egypt

Published June 4th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

The trial of 39 Muslims charged with threatening a priest, looting a church and destroying Coptic Christian homes and businesses in Sohag, south of Egypt, began Saturday, reported the Associated Press.  

The trial centered on clashes between Muslims and Coptic Christians that erupted Jan 2nd in the southern village of Dar el-Salam. Five Copts were injured in the violence and 156 stores, homes, pharmacies and offices belonging to Copts were burned or looted, said AP.  

The violence had spread to Dar el-Salam from the nearby town of el-Kusheh, where 23 people died - mostly Christians - after riots erupted following an argument between a Muslim customer and a Christian shopkeeper.  

Prosecutors Saturday told the Sohag Criminal Court that it had forensic and ballistic reports as well as town council reports proving the suspects - who include 12 aged 16 and 17 - were guilty, AP added.  

The defense countered that the reports only showed that the actions were committed, but did not prove that the suspects were the perpetrators.  

The court adjourned the trial hearing until July 3rd and ordered that a government social worker examine the 12 minors to see whether they should be tried as adults.  

Five of the suspects are being tried in absentia, said AP.  

The agency added that the suspects are accused of stealing money and documents at gunpoint from a priest at the Mary Guirges Church in Dar el-Salam. They are also accused of robbing five Coptic Christians and beating them with sticks. Other charges include arson, looting and destruction of property - Albawaba.com 

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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