Egypt drops case against men accused of beating Christian grandmother – but prosecutes her son for adultery
Coptic Christians walk outside St. Markos Church in Minya, where the attack took placeCREDIT: AP PHOTO/ROGER ANIS
16 JANUARY 2017 • 2:35PM
Egyptian prosecutors have dropped charges against three menaccused of stripping an elderly Christian woman naked and beating her during a sectarian riot, but are continuing to prosecute her son for allegedly having an affair with a Muslim neighbour’s wife.
Soad Thabet, a 70-year-old grandmother, was attacked in May by a mob of villagers who accused her Christian son of having an affair with a Muslim woman. Adultery is illegal in Egypt and there are laws against relationships between Christian men and Muslim women.
The violence became a symbol of the discrimination faced by Egypt’s 9 million Coptic Christians and Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, the Egyptian president, promised that the attackers would be brought to justice.
Mrs Thabet identified three of the men she said assaulted her but prosecutors announced this weekend that they were dropping the charges because of a lack of evidence.
But even as the Muslim men were cleared, prosecutors continued their case against Mrs Thabet’s son, Ashraf Abdo Attia, for alleged adultery. He denies the charges and is due in court later this month. If convicted, he faces a potential prison sentence.
The prosecutors’ decisions have left the family in dismay.
“I feel let down for a second time,” Mrs Thabet told The Telegraph. “I feel that nobody is standing by our side.”
The violence took place in May in the village of Karma in upper Egypt’s Minya province. The village is home to 500 Christians and around 11,000 Muslims.
Mrs Thabet said the mob came to her door after Friday prayers looking for her son, but he had already fled to a neighbouring town. Instead they dragged her into the street and beat her. The frenzied attack ended when a Muslim man intervened and covered her naked body with his jellabiya, a traditional garment, and took her to safety.
Mrs Thabet said: "I was hoping that they will be punished. The people who comfort me say that Jesus was himself stripped naked. Now, I complain only to God, and hope he brings justice. Is there anyone stronger than God?”
The family’s home was burned down along with six other Christian houses. Mr Sisi ordered the military to rebuild the house for them but Mrs Thabet said her family was still too frightened to return back to the village.
"The president himself apologised. Is the president’s apology not enough for the prosecutors to prove that the incident happened?” said Mr Abdo Attia, the son.
He is accused of having an affair with the wife his former business partner, a charge that he denies as does the woman he is alleged to have slept with. He is due in court at the end of January on the adultery charges and faces time in prison if convicted.
"If the law stands by the side of the culprits and the victim becomes culprit, then nothing will stop them from attacking us in the future,” Mr Abdo Attia said.
Coptic Christians make up around 10 per cent of the Egypt's population but face widespread discrimination and occasional violence.
A suicide bomber killed 27 worshippers at a Christian church in Cairo in December. The Islamic State (Isil) claimed responsibility for the attack.