Elders from the Muslim and Coptic communities were attending the 'community reconciliation' meeting in Egypt's Matai city last week. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)
Elders from the local Muslim and Coptic communities attended a “community reconciliation meeting” in Egypt’s Matai city last week, joined by local politicians. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)

A Coptic Christian whose allegedly blasphemous Facebook post caused riots in his Egyptian village earlier this month is scheduled to appear in court today (24 July) on charges of contempt of religion.*

Abdo Adel, 43, from Menbal village in Minya governorate, has been in detention since his arrest on 6 July and is scheduled to appear in a district court in the nearby city of Matai.

Meanwhile, most of the 90 Muslims who were arrested following the riots – on charges of mobbing, attacking Coptic homes, inciting sedition and attacking the police – were released after a “community reconciliation meeting” last week, a local source told World Watch Monitor. Four remain in custody for attacking a police car.

The reconciliation session, the traditional Egyptian way of diffusing tensions, brought together elders from both the Christian and Muslim communities, alongside local politicians, according to Coptic news site Watani.

During the meeting “the attendants stressed on the time-honoured cordial relations between the village Muslims and Copts, who all agreed to put the incident behind their back in order to preserve social peace”, Watani said.

Menbal, 225km south of Cairo, has a population of 45,000, 30% of whom are Copts. It was also home to Gaber Mounir Adly, one of the 21 men beheaded by Islamic State in Libya in 2015.

Why the riot?

The conflict started on 5 July when Muslim villagers filed a complaint against Adel, accusing him of publishing a Facebook post comparing Islam’s prophet, Muhammad, with Jesus.

Police arrested Adel, while, on the same day, a group of young men tried to raid his home. They were driven away by guards but three days later a mob attacked Copts and their properties, while chanting slogans against the Copts, such as “We will displace you and the priest from our village, oh kafir [infidels], oh the worshipers of the cross, oh defiled people”.

Security forces had to be called in to restore order, as the Coptic community were left holed up in their homes, fearing for their lives.

* The court sent Abdo Adel back to prison for another 15 days, pending investigation into the charges against him. His lawyer told World Watch Monitor that if found guilty, he could receive a sentence of up to five years in prison.