By Worthy News Middle East and Africa Services with Worthy News' Stefan J. Bos
CAIRO, EGYPT (Worthy News)-- A Muslim men was awaiting execution Monday, January 17, after a court in Egypt sentenced him to death for his alleged involvement in the January 2010 killings of six Coptic Christians following Christmas mass.
A Muslim policeman also died when three gunmen in a car attacked worshipers emerging from mass with bullets in Nagaa Hammadi, near the southern town of Qena. Mohammed Ahmad Hossein, also known as Hamam Kammouni, 39, was considered the ringleader of the attack.
The chief judge of the Qena security court, which allows no right of appeal, gave no motive for the attack in which the Copts were gunned down. The ruling comes at a time of growing concerns among Egypt’s minority Coptic Christian population after the recent bombing outside a church in Alexandria, during New Year’s Eve Mass, that killed over 20 people and wounded more than 90.
The bombing sent thousands of angry Copts rioting in the streets and criticizing the government as failing to protect them. Christians said the Nagaa Hammadi attack was the deadliest of its kind since 2000 when 20 Copts were killed in sectarian clashes.
Coptic Bishop Anba Kirolos of Nagaa Hammadi reportedly welcomed the ruling and said his flock were "satisfied," but a defense lawyer, Alaa Abu Zeid, said the death sentencing was influenced by widespread outrage over the Alexandria bombing.
Additionally, not all Christians agree with the death penalty, with some saying Christ rose up from death for all sinners and that execution takes away the opportunity for someone to receive Him as Lord and Savior.
Commentators have questioned whether Sunday’s verdict will help ease tensions between Egypt’s Coptic community and Muslims. In one of the latest reported incidents last week, a Muslim off-duty police officer boarded a train and shot dead a 71-year-old Christian man while wounding five others, news reports said.
Egyptian officials denied the shooting was religiously motivated, but did not provide an alternative explanation.
Copts make up about 10 percent of Egypt's 80-million population. Most Egyptian Christians are Copt, a word derived from the Greek name Aigyptos, which means Egypt.