An Egyptian court gave a suspended sentence to 19 Muslims who attacked an unlicensed church, giving them no jail time on condition of good behavior.
A misdemeanor court sentenced the 19 defendants Wednesday, showing immense leniency to those who destroyed church property and assaulted congregants within, according to the Associated Press. The defendants took part in a Dec. 22 attack on an unlicensed Coptic church in Giza. The assailants destroyed the inside of the church and beat Christian worshipers until police broke up the assault.
The attackers stormed the church after Friday prayers at their local mosque, screaming for the building’s destruction and ransacking the property. They wounded several of the Christians within. Security forces transported the injured to a local hospital.
While the court let the 19 assailants go free with a sentence that amounted to little more than a warning, another court fined one of the assaulted church’s leaders about $20,383 for starting and continuing an unlicensed church.
The church has operated for 15 years but has yet to be officially licensed by the government despite church leaders seeking to legalize the church in 2016, according to Haaretz. Local governments in Egypt sometimes refuse to license new churches in order to avoid stoking the ire of the Muslim population. New mosques, by contrast, easily obtain the proper licensing from their local governments.
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