CAIRO: The trial of the men accused of carrying out the Nagaa Hammadi shootings last month “will not be enough to reveal the truth behind the attacks and circumstances surrounding them, an NGO warned on Thursday.
“This trial may reveal who pressed the trigger and punish these individuals, but it will leave many questions unanswered, particularly the failure of security bodies to anticipate or prevent this horrifying crime, Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), said in the statement.
Six Christian men and one Muslim guard died outside the Yar Mohanna church, Nagaa Hammadi after celebration of the Coptic Christmas mass. The trial of Mohamed Ahmed Hassan El Kamuni, Qurashi Abol Haggag Mohamed Ali and Hendawy El-Sayed, accused of responsibility for the attack, is scheduled to begin today.
The defendants will be tried in emergency state security court, an exceptional tribunal created under the emergency law to hear certain categories of offences pursuant to the decision of the public prosecution office.
EIPR suggest that the decision to transfer the case to this court will jeopardize the rights of both the defendants and relatives of the victims of the shootings.
Court procedures in this exceptional tribunal prevent relatives of the victims from giving evidence or making any submissions to the court – unlike cases heard before the ordinary judiciary, EIPR explains in its statement.
Under the Egyptian Penal Code, only the victims of the shootings – meaning those injured – may appear before the court and cross-examine witnesses, but this is conditional on the agreement of the court.
Applications for civil compensation are also not permitted in the emergency state security court.
State security courts also “do not provide guarantees of a fair trial according to international standards, EIPR maintains, such as the right to appeal to a higher court. Defendants found guilty by the court may be sentenced to death, which EIPR says makes it of “crucial importance that the right to a fair trial is observed.
“The government may wish to appear to be decisively dealing with the crime in Nagaa Hammadi by sending the case to an emergency court, or to justify the existence of these exceptional tribunals, Bahgat says in the statement.
“The clear result of this decision however is that defendants are denied basic rights, and the rights of the victims [of the shootings] are undermined. These rights would have been protected in an ordinary criminal court.