CAIRO (AP) — An Egyptian court sentenced 12 Christians to life in prison and acquitted eight Muslims on Monday in a case set off by religious tensions in the country’s south.
The Christians were found guilty of sowing public strife, the possession of illegal weapons and shooting dead two Muslims in April of last year in Minya province, about 220 kilometers (135 miles) south of Cairo.
The religious tension in Minya spilled over into violence last year when a Muslim microbus driver, angered by a speed bump outside a wealthy Christian man’s villa, got into a scuffle with security guards who beat him.
After returning to his village of Abu Qurqas that evening, he rounded up the villagers who then gathered outside an ultraconservative Islamist group’s main office there to protest his beating. According to rights researcher Ishak Ibrahim, the Christians nearby thought they were going to be attacked and shot from their rooftops down at the crowd, killing two and wounding two others.
For several days after, angry villagers torched dozens of Christian homes and stores.
The eight Muslims on trial in the same case had been charged with possession of illegal weapons and burning down the Christian-owned homes and stores after the shooting.