An Egyptian Coptic leader says the government has “appeased” his community by sentencing to death a Muslim who murdered six Copts last year in a drive-by shooting.
Sunday’s death verdict was handed down against Mohammed Ahmed Hassanein for the “premeditated murder” of six Copts and a Muslim guard in January 2010, as well as for the attempted murder of nine others who were wounded in the shooting spree
Tensions between the Coptic community and Egyptian Muslims reached the breaking point earlier this month when a bomb attack killed 22 people outside a Coptic church during a midnight mass service for the Coptic new year.
More violence last week resulted in the killing of a Christian by an off-duty Muslim policeman, although Egypt claims religion was not behind the murder.
The sentencing has alleviated some of the anger in the Coptic community, Coptic church leader Nagib Gobraeil told Al Jazeera. “The government is not doing us a favor. This is the minimum the Copts deserve… Legally, it is an appeasement…but in reality, our hearts are still bleeding [and] our tears are flowing over many other outstanding issues.”
Last week, more than 1,000 Egyptian policemen in riot gear battled hundreds of Christian protesters, some of whom were seen being dragged away by authorities. Injuries were reported among the police and the protesters.
In a public display to calm tensions, thousands of Muslim acted as “human shields” the following night to protect Copts at a mass service celebrating their Christmas.