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Egypt begins retrial of 57 Muslims and 39 Christians over clashes two years ago

Posted: Friday, January 11, 2002

SOHAG, Egypt (AP) -- The 57 Muslims and 39 Christians charged with murder or other offenses after Muslim-Christian clashes in el-Kusheh two years ago are on trial for the second time.

The national Supreme Court ordered the retrial last July after the first trial ended in acquittal for all but four defendants. Coptic Orthodox Church leaders protested that the judgment was too lenient and appeared to appease Muslims.

Nearly all the 21 people killed in the clashes were Christians.

Muslim defendants told reporters they objected to the retrial, saying they were innocent. But Christian defendants said they were happy with the second trial and condemned the previous one as unfair.

In court, Samia Tadrous Lawendi named neighbors she said killed eight of her relatives. ''There's no reason at all for them to kill my family. I am awaiting your fair verdict,'' she said.

The fighting broke out after an argument between a Coptic shopkeeper and a Muslim customer. Conflict then spread to a neighboring village.

Christians comprise an estimated 10 percent of Egypt's 66.5 million people. They generally live in peace with Muslims, but complain of discrimination in civil service appointments.



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