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Retrial of Copts and Muslims for El Khusheh Clashes Begins in Egypt - 2002-01-06

Revisiting an old court case has opened fresh wounds for one family member of several victims killed during clashes between Coptic Christians and Muslims in Egypt two years ago.

Twenty-one people were killed on January 2, 2000, following riots in El Khusheh, Egypt. The clashes ensued after an argument between a Muslim customer and Coptic shopkeeper. The violence spread to a nearby village.

Samia Tadrous Lawendi called for justice this time around as she recounted evidence during the retrial that began this week of the 96 Copts and Muslims accused of rioting, arson, robbery, attempted murder and murder. Lawendi lost eight relatives in the clashes, including her father and brothers. She told the court she is still awaiting what she considers a fair verdict.

The Supreme Court ordered a retrial in Sohag, Egypt, last July. The initial ruling resulted in the acquittal of all but four of the 57 Muslims and 39 Copts accused.

Leaders of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church criticized the initial judgment, saying it appeared to favor Muslims and was not stringent enough. All of the 21 killed during the clashes were Copts. Approximately 10 percent of Egypt's 66 million people are Christian.