Nineteen residents of a village in Atfieh were handed one-year suspended sentences and LE500 fines on Wednesday, accused of carrying out a December attack on a church, according to the Atifeh Diocese’s lawyer Hany Samir.
Residents of the village of Waslin, in the Atfieh area of Giza Governorate, attacked a house that was being used as a church by Coptic Christians on December 22, damaging the building and injuring three people. The assailants claimed that the Copts had converted a residential property into a church.
The original owner of the property, Eid Atteya, was also issued a one-year suspended prison sentence and a LE360,000 fine for building without a license. According to papers submitted to the court by Atteya’s defense, Atteya sold the building to the Atifeh Diocese in 2014.
The Atfieh Misdemeanor Court acquitted the defendants, four of whom were tried in absentia, of charges of illegal assembly and thuggery during the Wednesday trial. They were, however, found guilty of forcibly entering and intentionally damaging the church building. Samir told Mada Masr that he would appeal the verdict against Atteya.
Prayers had been held on the property for the past 15 years, according to a statement issued by the Atfieh Diocese in the wake of the attack. Following the passing of the church building law in September 2016, the diocese submitted an official request to the committee which oversees church restoration and building to obtain a permit for the church.