Kosheh file closed
ON 27 FEBRUARY, the Sohag Criminal Court sentenced two men to prison and acquitted 93 others, in the retrial of the so-called "Al-Kosheh" case involving Muslim-Coptic Christian clashes which erupted three years ago and claimed the lives of 20 Copts and one Muslim in the village of Al- Kosheh, some 450 kilometres south of Cairo. The feud allegedly began as a result of an argument between a Muslim woman and a Coptic shopkeeper, with subsequent riots quickly spreading to the neighbouring village of Dar Al-Salam, thus increasing the number of casualties.
The court's harshest verdict was handed down to Fayez Amin Abdel- Rehim, who got a total of 15 years in prison -- 10 with hard labour for illegal possession of weapons, three for manslaughter and two more for illegal assembly. Mohamed Fawzi Shabib was sentenced to three years in prison, also for manslaughter, and six months for illegal assembly. The remaining 93 defendants were acquitted, while one of the primary Coptic defendants died last year.
At the original trial in 2001, the court had acquitted 92 defendants and convicted four, all of whom were Muslims. At that trial, Abdel-Rehim also got the harshest sentence, a total of 12 years in jail, while Shabib got two years. The other two got one year each for damaging property.
Following the first trial, the prosecution appealed the verdict at the Court of Cassation, which quashed the ruling and ordered a retrial.
A CAIRO state security court sentenced Islamist militant Nabil Ahmed Suleiman to five years jail-time on 27 February, for his role in the assassination of President Anwar El-Sadat. Suleiman, who had been extradited from the United States, was also charged with belonging to the clandestine militant Jihad group, which masterminded and executed the assassination.
Twenty years ago, Suleiman had been convicted in absentia and had received the same verdict. The militant reportedly fled from Egypt following Sadat's assassination in October 1981, passing through Saudi Arabia, Yemen and finally, the United States, where he married an American in 1992.
His residency permit expired, however, after he divorced his American wife, thus rendering his stay in the United States illegal, and resulting in his arrest in July 1997. He remained in custody without being formally charged until he was handed over to Egypt last June as part of Egyptian- American cooperation in combating terrorism.
During his trial, Suleiman's lawyers had argued that their client was a victim of mistaken identity, since his name was very similar to that of the wanted suspect. The court, however, overruled that claim after verifying the details of Suleiman's identity.
Egyptian law entitles those who were sentenced in absentia to a retrial once they are back home.
BUREAUCRACY is delaying Egypt's urban cleanliness projects, reports Dena Rashed . A waste management plan involving foreign companies contracted to clean Cairo and Giza governorates was expected to go into effect on 1 February. The equipment needed to do the job, however, was seized by customs officials in Alexandria, who demanded that the companies pay up 40 per cent of the value of the equipment. The contracts signed by the companies with the governorates, however, stipulate that the equipment will not be subject to customs duties.
Haza'a Khalil, Cairo Governorate's investment counselor, expressed his dismay at the negative way the issue is being handled, thereby "hindering the foreign companies from doing their job". According to Khalil, Cairo's Cleanliness and Beautification Authority (CCBA) needs to resolve the matter.
"The investment laws under which these agreements were signed provide the basis for the customs exemption, but the customs authority said some of the equipment, like the trucks, could be used for other purposes, and that's what they based their argument on," said Mohamed Laban, who heads the CCBA. Laban said situations like this -- involving confusion over new investment laws -- are quite harmful to Egypt's reputation. Negotiations between the CCBA and customs officials, Laban said, are moving in the direction of reducing the duties to just five per cent of the equipment's value.
Ahmed Nour, assistant project manager at AMA, the Italian company in charge of cleaning Cairo's western district, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the project has come to a dead end as a result of the customs problem. AMA is one of three companies responsible for cleaning Cairo, while another two firms are in charge of Giza's waste management. The AMA official said quitting the project was not an option for the company, even though AMA was paying a significant amount in daily fees just to have the equipment parked in the customs area. According to Nour, some of the other companies involved in the overall scheme may not have budgets capable of handling either the project's delays, or the daily storage fees being paid to customs.
No to War
THE COPTIC Evangelical Church held a seminar and a special prayer for Iraq yesterday. The event -- attended by a number of Muslim and Christian scholars -- was led by Father Safwat El-Bayadi, who hailed President Hosni Mubarak's efforts in search of peace and stability in the region.