CAIRO: There was no incitement behind the Nagaa Hammadi murders, according to General Prosecutor Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud as he referred the three suspects to the Emergency Supreme State Security Court in Qena Saturday.
In a statement, Mahmoud stressed that there was no mastermind behind the attacks and no involvement aside from the three perpetrators. This comes after reports of accusations against an MP from the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) of inciting sectarian strife after pictures emerged of him with one of the perpetrators.
The Jan. 6 shootings outside a church in Nagaa Hammadi as Coptic Christians exited Mass the night before Christmas left seven people dead, six Christians walking out of the church and a Muslim policeman who was standing on guard. Nine other bystanders were injured.
The three suspects, Qershi Aboul Hagag, Mohamed Ahmad Hassan El-Kamuni and Hindawi Mohamed Sayed, were captured the following day after being surrounded by police forces at a farm, after which they turned themselves in.
The suspects are being accused of murder in the first degree, the use of force and threatening public safety.
Due to the nature of the State Security Court the suspects have been referred to, there is no possibility of appeal and only the head of state can approve or reject the verdict.
The killings sparked rioting by Coptic Christians in Nagaa Hammadi, which is in southern Egypt, and led to clashes with police forces which decimated large swathes of the town.
Tensions have existed in Nagaa Hammadi since November when a 12-year-old Muslim girl was allegedly raped by a Christian man which also sparked riots by Muslim residents.
Meanwhile NDP MP Abdel Riheem El-Ghoul insisted that pictures taken of him with one of the suspects, El-Kamuni, did not in any way indicate that he was involved in the shootings.
Al Kalima Human Rights Center had filed a complaint that El-Ghoul had facilitated the release of the then incarcerated El-Kamuni 11 days prior to the shootings.
El-Ghoul had denied in a previous interview with Daily News Egypt that he had any involvement with El-Kamuni and the shooting.
“I didn’t play a role in El-Kamuni’s release; he doesn’t work for me and I have no relations with him, he said.
Meanwhile, the Egyptian Union for Human Rights Organization (EUHRO) called on Defense Minister Mohamed Tantawi to approve the transferal of eight of those wounded in the shooting from the Sohag General Hospital to one of the military hospitals in Cairo due to their critical condition.
The organization said the Sohag hospital lacks the proper facilities to perform delicate procedures on those patients, such as extracting bullets from their chest and heart.
A delegation from the organization, led by Naguib Gobrael, EUHRO head, met with representatives from the ministry to present the organization’s request.
The church was given an approval from Sohag’s attorney general for prosecutions to transfer the wounded to any place depending on their medical needs.
“The meeting [with the defense ministry] was a positive one, they promised to approve our request after they present it to the minister, Gobrael told Daily News Egypt.
In addition to their request, the organization added medical reports detailing the conditions and injuries of the eight wounded Copts.
The Nagaa Hammadi shooting has once again brought to the fore the status of Coptic Christians in Egypt, and has sparked protests abroad, including one on Saturday in Tampa, Florida in the US by Coptic Christians living there. Another protest was held in Northern Texas on Friday.
There were also protests in Cairo in the wake of the attack, organized by the National Committee Against Sectarian Violence outside the Public Prosecution Office. The protestors called for justice for attacks against Coptic Christians, adding that in previous cases the perpetrators had got off with light sentences.