Verdict Signals Christian Blood Is Cheap, Copt Warns

CAIRO, Egypt, FEB. 5, 2001 ( Muslims are now “encouraged to kill Christians” in Egypt after a court this week acquitted most of those accused of massacring Christians in January last year, a leading Coptic cleric charged.

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“All the murderers were acquitted. That means Muslims are encouraged to kill Christians. They are being told ´Go ahead. Kill Coptic Christians´,” Bishop Wissa of Balyana, which includes the town of Al-Kosheh, told Agence France-Presse.

A court in the southern city of Sohag sentenced four Muslims to prison for between one year and 10 years, and acquitted 92 others over the massacre that left 20 Christians and one Muslim dead in the nearby town of Al-Kosheh.

Some 38 of the 58 Muslim defendants had faced the death penalty in the massacre, the worst Christian-Muslim bloodshed in 20 years. “This verdict means that Christians cannot live in safety. It also means that there is no justice or law,” the bishop said when contacted by telephone from Cairo. He said he “expected new massacres of Christians because this verdict means that the life of Christians has no value.”

When interviewed a year ago, Bishop Wissa accused the state security forces in Al-Kosheh of either turning a blind eye or giving the green light for Muslims to attack Copts.

He spoke of lingering anger over the fact that no police were punished for allegedly torturing and mistreating 1,000 Copts during a murder investigation two years earlier.

Meanwhile, Bishop Bassanti of Helwan, near the capital Cairo, urged the court to reconsider its verdict to “preserve national unity” after telling that the decision was “too lenient” and “makes light of human life.”

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