Egypt prosecutor looks to challenge acquittal of Muslim men charged with stripping elderly Christian woman
Egypt’s Public Prosecutor Hamada al-Sawy is looking into contesting an Appeals Court ruling that acquitted three Muslim men charged with stripping naked an elderly Christian woman and dragging her through the streets of al-Karm village in Minya province, 250km south of Cairo.
Suad Thabet, who is in her 70s, and her husband, Abdu Ayad, were attacked by a mob of 300 men in May 2016 following a rumour that their son was having an affair with a Muslim woman. The elderly couple’s home and the homes of six other Christians were looted and five were set on fire by the mob.
“How can they be acquitted,” cried Suad Thabet, after the court’s ruling on 18 December. “ … [Egypt’s] President al-Sisi promised me justice, then the court says my assailants are innocent! I feel I am still naked … Anyhow, if I cannot get justice on earth, I wait for Heaven’s justice.”
The attack shocked and outraged Egyptians and brought an apology from President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi who ordered that all the Christians’ houses be repaired.
Prosecutors initially dropped the case against the three men accused of the attack, Nazeer Ishaq Ahmed, the husband of the Muslim woman allegedly involved in the affair, and his father and brother, citing insufficient evidence. The claim was challenged by Suad Thabet’s lawyer who said that witnesses had changed their statements because of threats against them.
The three men were eventually sentenced to ten years in absentia in January 2020. Their appeal against the ruling was granted after several witnesses went back on their testimony against the accused.
Christians make up about 10% of the Egyptian population. The incident against Suad Thabet was one of the worst attacks on Egyptian Christian women, but it is common for vulnerable Christian women to be kidnapped and forced to marry a Muslim. Barnabas helps to empower vulnerable Christian women by offering them training and support to start up a small business, as well as programmes in literacy and numeracy, vocational skills and Bible studies.