Men [of God] at work in Egypt

02 Apr 2001


CAIRO- A Coptic priest who was among about 160 people being investigated for their alleged role in Egypt's worst communal violence in decades has been exonerated due to lack of evidence, Egypt's State Security Prosecutor said in a report.

Fr. Gabriel Abdel-Masih, along with at least 15 others, escaped charges for the Dec. 31-Jan. 2 violence in the southern Egyptian towns of el-Kusheh and Dar el-Salam. 23 people died, mostly Christians, after riots erupted following an argument between a Muslim customer and a Christian shopkeeper.

The report, released a day after Egypt's chief prosecutor charged 136 people for the violence, said the accused were being referred to criminal court in Assiut, 180 miles south of Cairo.

The charges ranged from murder, grand theft and looting to arson, destruction of property and ownership of an unlicensed weapon, the report said. Many of the charges carry the death penalty. At least 16 people, including Abdel-Masih, were not charged due to lack of evidence. He had earlier been accused of "leading a gang which attacked a section of the population, a criminal conspiracy to kill and destroy properties, attempted murder and possession of firearms.'' The priest said he was innocent. AP, 3/12/2000


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