By Marina Makary
The Giza Criminal Court postponed the trial of 31 defendants charged with killing prominent Shi’a cleric Hassan Shehata and three others to 10 February, due to the absence of some defendants, state media reported.
On 23 June 2013, Shehata, two of his siblings and a student were killed, while dozens were injured as a result of religious intolerance in the town of Abu Mussalam, in Giza. The killing took place when approximately 24 Shi’as gathered at a local residence to celebrate the birth of Imam Mohammed ibn Hassan Al-Mahdi, believed to be the 12th and last imam of Shi’a Islam. The gathering was attacked by a mob armed with Molotov cocktails and other weapons.
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) had previously stated the incident was due to years of incitement against the minority religious group. The group said this was conducted by the leaders of Al-Azhar, state agencies, and different Islamic movements, which repeatedly considered the presence of Shi’a Muslims in the country a threat.
There are no official government statistics on Egypt’s Shi’a population, but it is estimated to be under 1% of the population, according to a 2012 US State Department on religious freedom report.