Once again, the Egyptian court system seems committed to denying justice to Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority. For the second time in a row, a court involved in the case of the unconscionable abuse of an elderly Christian woman has just recused itself.
“The case had been postponed several times and was closed in 2017 due to insufficient evidence,” says the September 3, 2020 report. “However, the woman’s legal representatives filed a grievance reopening it again. Then, in March 2019, the Minya felony court decided to withdraw from hearing the case due to embarrassment.” After that, in October 2019, the case was postponed again, because a court member was reportedly absent; and now this.
The case concerns Soa‘d Thabet, a Christian grandmother in her 70s. On May 20, 2016, a mob of some 300 Muslim men descended on her home, stripped her completely naked, beat, spit on, and paraded her in the streets of al-Karm village (in Minya governorate) to jeers, whistles, and triumphant shouts of “Allahu Akbar.”
Her crime? Her son was falsely accused of having a romantic relationship with a Muslim woman, which is banned by Islamic law, or Sharia—the same body of teachings that prescribes the collective punishment of non-Muslim “infidels.”
Earlier that day she and her husband had gone to local police and complained that they were being harassed and threatened by neighborhood Muslims. Police responded by also threatening and ordering them out of the station. A few hours later, the attack came. It took the same local police over two hours to appear, giving the mob “ample time,” as one Christian clergyman put it, to riot. Seven Christian homes were also burned.
Well over four years later and still no justice for Soa’d Thabet, even though her abusers are well known. Indeed, while the humiliated, elderly woman, resides outside her village for fear of “reprisals,” her persecutors still live and walk around there, freely and proudly. Meanwhile, every court involved has come up with any number of excuses not to judge the case.
It should be borne in mind that, even in Egypt, such criminal cases usually do not take years to judge: except for those who managed to escape, Muslim Brotherhood sympathizers who targeted state property or officials in 2013 were arrested years back, tried, found guilty, and hundreds even sentenced to death.
So why has it taken over four years to rule on the case of a Christian grandmother who was stripped completely naked, slapped, spat upon, and paraded in the streets?
Commenting on this delay, Adel Guindy, founding president of Coptic Solidarity and author of A Sword Over the Nile, which outlines the persecution Egypt’s Christians experienced over the course of fourteen centuries, said,
The judiciary system in Egypt, as well as the rest of the pillars of the state (often referred to as the “deep state”) have become impregnated with fundamentalist Islamic ideology, and are thus decidedly biased against Copts. The political leadership of the country takes no concrete corrective measures and, worse still, lets this ideology shape and dominate the society, through education and media.
The ongoing stalling of this relatively clear-cut case makes clear that Egypt’s Christian minorities are not just suffering from Islamists and criminals but from the entire system, a system which allows much impunity for those who would target Christians. After all, a justice that moves as slowly as a turtle—constantly recusing and delaying—is just another form of injustice.