Written by Youssef Sidhom
2 August 2009
Law and justice are effectively thrown to the wind Watani Editor-in-Chief Youssef Sidhom
On Tuesday 7 July 2009 the adversaries in the by-now notorious Abu-Fana case headed to the Minya prosecution office where they all went back on the testimonies they had previously submitted, in which they had accused one another of reciprocal assaults.
Official reports of reconciliation were issued and authenticated. This marked the end to the Abu-Fana dilemma, then well into its 14th month. It was officially declared that the dispute was over, and thanks were due to the State Security Investigation for their efforts to bring about rapprochement.
So the curtain was drawn, in an alarmingly theatrical manner, on a case which had for months horrified Egyptians. The evening of 31 May 2008 had seen a violent attack by the ‘Arabs’—as the tribal dwellers of the Egyptian deserts are termed—against the monks of the 4th century desert monastery of Abu-Fana in Mallawi, Minya, some 250km south of Cairo.
The unarmed monks were cruelly assaulted and a number of them were abducted, humiliated and brutally tortured, then cast away between life and death on the desert pathway at near dawn.
The memories of the horrendous incident make it hard to swallow the scenario through which the criminal file was closed. The arguments used to nullify the criminal charges cheekily involve recounting on previous testimonies and ignore the right of the community to exact justice, penalise law breakers, and ensure that criminals never get away with their crimes.
Reconciliation here is not concerned with a married couple or even business partners whose relations have soured for one or another reason. It is concerned with—according to the previous testimony of the monks—abduction, detention, robbery, destruction of property, arson, carrying firearms.
Yet the security and law officials appeared happy to say: “Everyone involved came to the lawyer general in the prosecution office of South Minya to acknowledge reconciliation and to cast doubts on their previous testimonies.” Then the monks would say that it had been too dark a night to clearly identify their attackers, especially considering the state of fatigue the monks had been reduced to. The attack had left in its wake one Arab, Khalil Mohamed, killed by friendly fire.
Two Coptic brothers, Rifaat and Ibrahim Fawzy, were accused by Mohamed’s father of having killed his son and were consequently detained, even though they had not been present at the site in the first place. And even though the after-death investigation revealed the brothers to be innocent of the murder charge and the court ordered their release, they were arrested on security grounds and have been since in prison. In the reconciliation report Mohamed’s father admitted he could not vouch for sure who it was who had killed his son.
The reconciliation scenario was skilfully woven so that all the parties involved would collaborate to dissipate the court case and delude justice, with the blessings of the authorities concerned. And now we have arrived at the happy ending, happily ever after. As for the community right to justice, the rule of law, and the security of ensuring that similar criminal acts can never go unpunished, all these were practically thrown to the wind.
On 15 June 2008 Watani printed an editorial under the title “Throwing law and justice to the wind”. It said: “By dubbing the attacks against Coptic property, lives and monasteries ‘sectarian events’, the false idea is promoted of two factions of fanatic Muslims and Copts fighting each other, placing the victim and offender on equal footing and condemning both.
The authorities brandish their own style of terrorism by arresting members of the victimised party and coercing this party into a ‘reconciliation’ in which all their rights are renounced in return for releasing the detainees.
This move naturally involves releasing any culprits detained, since the victims have renounced their rights to have the culprits prosecuted. The end result is that the victims are twice victimised, first by their assailants and then by the authorities. Law and justice are effectively thrown to the wind.
“Recasting the roles of the offender and victim in order to achieve a coerced equality between both and thus force the victim to reconcile with the offender and renounce all due rights in no way reflects any citizenship concepts or supremacy of law. It constitutes a devil’s act for the devil’s account.” How typically true in the case of Abu-Fana‘s !