By BosNewsLife Middle East Service
CAIRO, EGYPT (BosNewsLife)– Christians in Egypt have demanded a full investigation after a teenager was reportedly killed in the country’s central province of Minya for wearing a crucifix at school.
Two Muslim students have been detained over the murder of Ayman Nabil Labib, 17, but “grave concerns” remain that local officials are “hiding the evidence and trying to influence witnesses,” said religious rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
In published remarks, his parents said their son was murdered “in cold blood” during the October 16 classroom altercation in the town of Mallawi because “he refused to take off his crucifix as ordered by his Muslim teacher.”
Ayman had a cross tattooed on his wrist, an old Coptic Christian tradition, and another cross above his clothes.
He was reportedly “told to cover up” his cross tattoo, but refused and defiantly exposed the second cross he wore under his shirt, witnesses said.
Ayman was “severely beaten in the classroom in the presence of the teacher, who allegedly attempted to choke him,” CSW said, citing local Christians and witnesses.
The teenager was then followed as he fled to the washroom, where the attack continued, Christians said.
He was still breathing when a supervisor took him to his room, but was dead an hour later when an ambulance transported his body, according to his parents and local witnesses.
CSW made clear that it wants authorities to go further than the detention of just two Muslim suspects. Officials have reportedly said that the attack took place as “a result of friction between students.”
However, CSW claimed, “There are also reports that the parents of students that witnessed the attack are not allowing them to give statements to the police.”
The governor of Minya has reportedly suspended the school’s headmaster, two supervisors and two social workers who were on duty when Ayman was killed. Since then, all five have disappeared news reports said.
It comes amid international concerns over attacks against minority Christians in Egypt. The European Parliament has pressured the country’s interrim rulers to improve protection of Egyptian Christians, also known as Copts, after at least 25 Copts were killed and over 300 wounded by security forces during a peaceful protest October 9.
CSW said that prominent Internet writer and human rights activist Alaa Abd El Fattah was detained for fifteen days for allegedly “inciting violence against the military” during the October 9 protest against the destruction of a church.
PRISON TERM EXTENDED?
“His prison term can be extended indefinitely, and his lawyers are appealing the sentence,” added the group, which closely monitors the case.
Alaa’s fellow activist Bahaa Saber was reportedly released on bail pending investigations.
CSW also expressed concerns that Egypt’s ruling military council “continues to subject civilians to military legal proceedings.”
So far some 12,000 civilians have been tried in and sentenced by military courts since the military council came to power, according to rights activists. Just over 300 people are known to have been pardoned by the army.
Egypt’s Christians, who make up 10 percent of the 80-million population, have also been the target of several other attacks and have repeatedly accused the authorities of systematic discrimination in the heavily Islamic nation. (With reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos).