Verdict in Egyptian Copt killings trial expected mid-January

Cairo - An Egyptian court is expected to hand down its verdict against three men charged with shooting Coptic Christians outside a church in the south of the country on January 16, a judicial source said Sunday.

Gunmen opened fire on parishioners leaving a Coptic Christmas Eve mass in January this year in Nagaa Hamadi town, 650 kilometres south of Cairo. Coptic Christians celebrate Christmas on January 7.

The attack left eight Christians and one Muslim policeman guarding the church dead.

Three Muslim men were charged with premeditated murder, harming public security, the use of force and violence, and endangering the lives of citizens.

A lawyer with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights Ishaq Ibrahim said that his organisation has objected that the trial is before a state security court, which does not provide the right to an appeal.

'We are generally against the trial of civilians before emergency courts,' Ibrahim said.

Both military and state security courts are usually to try civilians accused of terrorism. Yet, the Emergency Law, which has been in place in Egypt since 1981, allows the trial of civilians in military courts.

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