CAIRO — An Egyptian criminal court acquitted three Muslim men accused of stripping naked an elderly Coptic Christian woman and parading her through the streets of a village in southern Egypt in 2016, the state’s official news agency reported.
The three had been sentenced to 10 years in absentia in January, before they were detained and stood a retrial for the attack in the southern province of Minya, where an armed Muslim mob had attacked the 70-year-old woman four years ago, after rumors spread that her son was having an affair with a Muslim woman. Such relations are taboo in conservative Egypt.
The court handed down the verdict as the retrial of the three concluded on Thursday.
Egypt’s chief prosecutor, Hamada el-Sawy, on Friday instructed his legal team to look into a possible appeal, the state MENA news agency reported.
The May 2016 attack shocked the country. At the time, Anba Makarios, Minya’s top Christian cleric, told a talk show host on the private Dream TV network that the woman was dragged out of her home by the mob who beat her and insulted her before they stripped her off her clothes and forced her to walk through the streets as they chanted Allahu Akbar, or “God is great.”
It also elicited a storm of condemnation on social media where users blamed the incident on the strong influence in the area of ultraconservative Muslims known as Salafis. In the same eruption of sectarian violence, seven Christian homes were looted and torched in the Minya village of Karma.
Christians, who make up almost 10 percent of Egypt’s population of more than 100 million have long complained of discrimination at the hands of the Muslim majority.