Egypt charges 20 in April sectarian incident

Egypt's public prosecutor on Monday ordered 20 suspects to be tried for murder and sedition over the death of two people in April, signaling a tougher stance on sectarian tensions.

The prosecutor said 18 of the suspects in the incident in the village of Abu Qurqas in southern Egypt, where a road accident sparked sectarian clashes during which houses were burned, were in custody and two were still at large.

"A scuffle broke out between a group of Christians and Muslims, in which fire arms were used that led to the death of two people and four others were injured," the prosecution statement said.

Religious hardliners, exploiting a security vacuum created by the Jan. 25 revolution that forced President Hosni Mubarak to step down, pushed Egypt towards sectarian strife with a series of sectarian incidents that killed nearly 30 people, forcing the ruling military council to toughen measures against sedition.

The statement said that among other charges, the prosecutor general, Abdel Meguid Mahmoud, accused the suspects of premeditated murder, attempted murder, causing sectarian strife and deliberately setting village buildings on fire.

The prosecutor asked authorities to fix a date for the start of the hearings, which will take place at a criminal chamber of the high state security court in the province of Ban Suef, south of Cairo.

Some of the charges carry the death penalty.  

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