(Photo: Riot police stand guard near the Orthodox church in Alexandria, Egypt bombed during Orthodox Christmas Mass, January 6, 2011/Asmaa Waguih)
An Egyptian state security court on Sunday sentenced a Muslim man to death for killing six Coptic Christians and a Muslim police officer in a drive-by shooting on Coptic Christmas Eve in January 2010.
Mohamed Ahmed Hussein, 39, known as Hamam Kamouni, had been charged with the “premeditated murder” of the Christians and the police officer and with “intimidating citizens” in Nagaa Hamady in southern Egypt after mass on the eve of Coptic Christmas.
The judge said Hussein’s sentence would be sent to the Grand Mufti for confirmation, a reference to Egypt’s top religious authority who is called on to confirm death sentences.
The court said Hussein’s two accomplices, Kurashi Abu Haggag and Hindawi Muhammed Sayyid, who were charged with aiding in the murder and possession of weapons, would be announced on February 20.
Christians account for about 10 percent of Egypt’s mostly Muslim population of about 80 million. Sectarian violence is rare, but disputes over issues including land rights or personal relationships occasionally erupt.