By Essam Fadl
CAIRO: Hundreds of Copts took part Wednesday in the funeral of Sayed Fathy Ebeid, 71, who was shot dead by a policeman on a Minya train a day earlier. Demonstrations calling for retribution erupted south of the capital shortly after.
Five Copts, including Ebeid’s wife, were injured in the shooting.
The shooter, Amer Ashour Abdel-Zaher, was arrested at his residence, according to the Ministry of Interior. He faces 10 charges including premeditated murder and attempted murder and will stand trial before the Supreme State Security Emergency Court, General Prosecutor Abdel Meguid Mahmoud said in a statement. No date was set for trial in the court, whose verdicts cannot be appealed.
Ebeid’s funeral was held at the Mario Hanna Church in the east Cairo district of Helmeit El-Zaitoun under heavy security.
Pope Shenouda, who is on a medical trip in the US, was represented by high profile bishops.
Following the funeral, Copts demonstrated in Manshiet Nasser area and near the entrance to the Moqqattam plateau, south of Cairo, to protest the train shooting.
“What more do you want? We are being eliminated one by one,” shouted Ebeid’s sister Yvonne, in tears.
“Some people want to get rid of the Copts,” she said, reflecting a growing sentiment among minority Christians since a bomb killed 23 people outside a church in the northern city of Alexandria on New Year’s.
Security cordoned the Manshiet Nasser demonstrators who blocked the Autostrad Road. Demonstrators threw rocks at security forces, who used teargas and water hoses to break up the protest.
Clashes between both sides left six injured drivers of cars passing by, two cars overturned and a public bus destroyed.
In the Copt-dominated Zarayeb district in Moqqattam, hundreds demonstrated calling for the execution of the train shooter. Clashes with the police left unknown number of protestors injured, several vehicles destroyed, and trucks used by garbage collectors living in the area burnt down.
The injured were transferred to the nearby Samaan El-Kharraz Hospital.
Egyptian authorities played down a sectarian motive for the attack. But conflicting accounts and explanations were provided by officials and eyewitnesses.
A security official said the suspect, who was arrested after the shooting, said in questioning that he had felt “irritated and frustrated” because he was short on money. He did not say he specifically targeted Christians.
Minya governor Ahmed Diaa Al-Din denied that the attacker was religiously motivated.
“It has to do with his personal mental state. It had nothing to do with the religion of his victims,” he told AFP. “He boarded the train suddenly and emptied his pistol.”
He said that the man tried to shoot two Muslims who wrestled with him but he had run out of ammunition. –Additional reporting by AFP