CAIRO - A Muslim man was sentenced to death in Egypt on
Monday for killing two people in a dispute with Christians in a southern town,
state media said, in a case that underlines sectarian tensions in the
Incidents of Christian-Muslim violence have increased in Egypt,
an overwhelmingly Muslim nation, since the toppling of former President Hosni
Mubarak in 2011. His overthrow gave freer rein to hardline Islamists repressed
under his rule.
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood politician
elected last year, has promised to protect the rights of Coptic Christians, who
make up about 10 percent of the country's 83 million population.
in Upper Egypt found Mahmoud Abdel-Nazir guilty of raiding several Christian
houses and killing two people in November 2011, state news agency MENA said. The
agency did not say if those killed were Christian.
Violence had erupted
after a Coptic man beat Abdel-Nazir's brother to death with an iron rod in an
argument over the use of a village street, MENA said.
several other people then attacked houses and shops belonging to relatives of
the Christian man, killing a farmer and a trader, the agency said. Two people
were injured and several buildings were set on fire.
The judge sent the
sentence to the Grand Mufti, Egypt's highest religious authority who needs to
confirm death penalties. This is a procedural step that almost always results in
confirmation of the sentence.
Since Mubarak was ousted, Christians have
complained of several attacks on churches by radical Islamists, incidents that
have sharpened longstanding Christian complaints about being sidelined in the
workplace and in law.
As an example, they point to rules that make it
harder to obtain official permission to build a church than a
Sectarian tensions have often flared into violence, particularly
in rural areas where rivalries between clans or families sometimes add to
friction. Romantic relations between Muslims and Christians are regularly to
blame for clashes.