Justice for the murder of 21 Christians in Egypt sign now

PETITION TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES

President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

On June 5th, 2002, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt will return to the United States on a state visit. On behalf of the American citizens of Coptic origin, we urge you to raise with him the issue of his governments ongoing violations of religious freedom and human rights of the Coptic Christian community in Egypt.

On the eve of the new millennium, a three-day killing spree in El-Kosheh, 250 miles south of Cairo, left 21 Christians murdered, 33 Christians wounded and 260 Christian homes and business destroyed. The fighting spread to the neighboring village of Dar Al-Salam where five Christians were injured and 156 Christian-owned stores, homes and businesses were burned or looted. In Awlad Tuq Gharb, 23 Coptic homes were destroyed, and the village church was attacked. Attacks against Coptic property also took place in the neighboring villages of Al-Nossayrat and Nagaa Mussa.

Yet justice has not been served! In fact it has been perversed, declaring - in the words of Bishop Wissa - that the life of Christians has no value. Presiding Judge Mohamed Affifi acquitted all the murder suspects, and the police forces accused local Christian clergy of hostilities. A new appeal was launched and there was hope of justice. Instead the 96 defendants were once again released on April 10th of this year without a verdict.

Although, Al-Kosheh was already a hot-bed of tension between Muslims and Christians no precautions were taken to prevent this deadly massacre. On August 14, 1998, Two Christian youth were murdered by Muslim extremists in the village of El- Kosheh, in the province of Sohag.

The security forces responded by arresting over 1200 Christians to coerce confessions and pin the crime on a Christian to prevent tension with Muslims. The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) has confirmed widespread use of torture and ill treatment in police stations and prisons, yet the Interior Ministry cleared the police officers involved of any wrongdoing. The desired result was achieved.

On September 17th 1998, Coptic Christian William Shaiboub Arsal was taken into custody and accused of the double murder. He was hung upside down by his feet, beaten, tied to a chair and given electric shocks to sensitive parts of his body. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, just because of his religion.
On June 5th of 2000, the trial of 96 people accused of murder and other charges in Al Kosheh began. All the accused plead innocent. Also on June 5th, amid the now refocused international attention, Coptic Christian William Shaiboub Arsal was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.

Although, on March 18th of 2000, Prosecutor-General Maher Abdel-Wahed charged 135 suspects, no one has been convicted of any of the 21 murders! First the decision was made not to try the defendants in military court but in a criminal court. Then Twenty-four men were acquitted instantaneously and seven defendants were granted trial by absentia. On December 7th of 2000, without hearing complete evidence or issuing any ruling, presiding Judge Mohamed Affifi ordered the release without bail to the remaining 89 defendants who were in detention on charges with offences related to the El Kosheh Massacre. He then topped of that decision by acquitted 92 defendants on February, 5 of 2001. Although, Thirty-eight of the 57 Muslim defendants faced the death penalty, of the four convicted, none were convicted of murder.

After widespread outrage from the Coptic Community, on April 27, 2001 Egypt's top-ranking Court of Cassation announced it will hear an appeal questioning the blanket acquittal of all but four of 96 defendants, including the 38 Muslims charged with murder. The retrial was ordered on July 30th of 2001, yet it did not take place until January 5th of 2002. All this unfortunately was to no avail.

On April 10th of 2002, the Sohag Criminal Court released all 96 defendants, leaving no indications that the upcoming sentencing hearing will reverse the decision made last February.

Denial of justice, disregard for human life, lack of moral responsibility, and political tensions can no longer determine the verdicts for the murderers of the Al-Kosheh massacre. These destructive attitudes can only incite further violence. The courts are loudly shouting to others thinking of such atrocities that they will not be convicted. It is of no surprise to those of us who know Egypt that the majority of court decisions are politically motivated and dictated.

Justice requires correct and fair usage of the state's authority within the framework of the law. We are shocked, appalled and dismayed at the lack of protection provided to Christians under President Mubaraks regime. We mandate a complete reversal of the Sohag criminal court decision to send a strong message to Muslim fanatics within Egypt.

As citizens of the world who are concerned with the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the world, we appeal to you Mr. President to urge President Mubarak to cleanse his government, judiciary and media systems from those Islamic fanatics who have made life impossible for the 12 million Christians in Egypt.

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Anthony HannaBy:
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President Bush

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