Published: 00:00 GMT Standard Time - Wednesday 19 January 2011
Death sentence for Muslim who killed Christians
Country/Region: Middle East and North Africa, Egypt
A Muslim man has been sentenced to death for his part in a drive-by shooting outside an Egyptian church that killed six Christians and a Muslim police guard.
The attack by three gunmen took place in the southern town of Nag Hamadi as worshippers were leaving the church after a service celebrating the Eastern Christmas Eve on 6 January 2010.
A map showing the location of Egypt
The sentencing of Mohammed Ahmed Hassanein (39) on Sunday (16 January) comes amid further attacks against Egyptian Christians, which have prompted them to take to the streets in protest and complain that the authorities are failing to protect them or bring the perpetrators to justice.
At least 21 people were killed, with scores more injured, when a suicide bomber detonated explosives outside a church in Alexandria as worshippers were leaving a service on New Year’s Day (1 January 2011).
And last Tuesday (11 January), a Muslim off-duty police officer opened fire on Christians aboard a train, killing a 71-year-old man and wounding five others – at least four of whom were Christians.
Commentators have said the severity of Hassanein’s sentence was likely intended to appease Egypt’s Christians in light of recent events. The court will announce verdicts for the two other defendants in the drive-by shooting case next month. Hassanein was convicted of the premeditated murder of the seven people who were killed, and the attempted murder of nine others who were wounded, as well as terror-related offences.
The attack on the Nag Hamadi church followed threats to one of the church leaders, apparently made because of his protests about the large-scale anti-Christian violence that had taken place in the neighbouring town of Farshoot two months before. The violence was triggered by a report that a Christian man had sexually abused a Muslim girl.