A misdemeanours court began on Wednesday the trial of nearly two dozen defendants accused of sectarian violence, scheduling a hearing session for 10 January.
According to state-owned media Al-Ahram on Tuesday, the prosecution authority referred 21 defendants to urgent trial on charges of raiding a house, illegal assembly, and violence. The defendants include 16 detainees, including a minor, while four others remain on the run.
Earlier this week, a mob attacked a Coptic congregation and destroyed the contents of the house they were in. The owner of the house was also detained on accusations of illegally turning his house into a place of worship.
Such assaults are common across Egyptian governorates, but in most cases, no legal action is taken, but rather, customary reconciliation sessions between representatives of the Muslim and Coptic communities are held, especially in rural villages.
Citing restrictions on the construction and renovation of churches, many Coptic citizens have become used to gathering at church-affiliated “associations” and houses to perform their prayers.
They have repeatedly come under attack by Muslim extremists. According to a report issued by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) in November, there were at least 20 incidents of sectarian tensions and assaults related to the performance of religious rituals between September 2016 and October 2017.
The report said that in several instances, security forces resolved to shut down such places of worship. Earlier this year, Minya Bishop Makarios issued a statement complaining of the continuing closure of prayer houses and churches by security forces.
Meanwhile, official religious figures and parliamentary members refuted claims of discrimination against Coptic citizens in Egypt.
This comes as Al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayeb visited Pope Tawadros II on Wednesday at Saint Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral.