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US Official Calls for Justice in Christian Murders. Decries Failure of Egyptian Authorities to Punish Perpetrators
WASHINGTON, D.C., FEB. 23, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is pressing for justice in the case of anti-Christian violence in Egypt, especially the bombing in Alexandria that claimed 23 lives.

On Sunday, the Egyptian court acquitted two men who were alleged accomplices in the murder of six Coptic Orthodox Christians and one Muslim security guard in January 2010 in Naga Hammadi.

Leonard Leo, USCIRF chair, noted that this case "took over a year, and the Egyptian state security court committed serious breaches of due process and fairness."

Last month, Mohamed Ahmed Hussein, another of the three men accused of perpetrating the killings, was convicted and sentenced to death. The court ratified this sentence on Sunday while acquitting the other two men.

Now, in the wake of political changes in Egypt, Leo asserted that "a new Egyptian government must, in the regular criminal courts, prosecute perpetrators for sectarian killings in the country."

He added that "the government should complete a thorough investigation and vigorously prosecute and bring to justice those responsible for the New Year's Eve bombing in Alexandria that took the lives of at least 23 and injured nearly 100."

"Incomplete justice does very little to address the perpetual cycle of violence targeting religious minorities that has remained unchecked by the government in Egypt," Leo said.

He continued, "The government also should ensure that Christian and other non-Muslim places of worship receive heightened security, particularly in the current climate where religious minorities are increasingly vulnerable to extremist attacks, including threats to eradicate Christians from the region."

A press release from USCIRF, an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission, noted that "for years, the Egyptian government has failed to take sufficient steps to halt the repression of and discrimination against Christians and other religious believers, or, in many cases, to punish those responsible for violence or other severe violations of religious freedom."

The commission underlined its "long-standing and urgent recommendation" that the Egyptian government "pass a unified law on building and maintaining places of worship, repeal bans on religious minorities," and "revoke Egypt's blasphemy law."