Christian rape case postponed to October

An Egyptian court ruled on Thursday to postpone the trial of a young Christian man accused of raping a Muslim girl, according to judiciary sources. The government believes that the crime triggered a series of sectarian clashes in the country's south.

Police detained Girgis Baroumy Girgis, 21, last November, accusing him of raping a twelve-year-old girl in Farshout, Qena, 600km south of Cairo. Following the incident, enraged Muslims vandalized and set fire to scores of Christian-owned businesses in Farshout.

Authorities believe the rape also incited another attack in which six Christians and one Muslim guard were shot dead in front of a church in the neighboring city of Naga Hammadi after a Christmas celebration on 6 January, 2010.

Qena's criminal court decided to postpone the trial to 11 October to wait for the defendant to submit his military service exemption papers to back up claims by the defense lawyer that Girgis was medically ineligible to serve.

The crime report implicated Girgis in the rape. But yesterday, despite an earlier confession before the public prosecution, Girgis denied his involvement.

Egypt's sectarian violence usually erupts due to land disputes, church building or affairs between couples from both religions.

Another court is considering the trial of three Muslims suspected of carrying out the Naga Hammadi attack.

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