By Sera Ghaly
The story of Alaa El-Din Reda Roshdi Salah El-Din, a Coptic Christian jailed for twenty five years for the conspiracy to murder
Adel Reda Roshdi Salah El-Din slammed a heap of paperwork down on his desk before he sat down. These were the 800 pages of police reports and witness statements he had read at least sixty times over, word for word and page for page.
“It doesn’t take a lawyer or judge to see that none of this makes sense, and when you read it you will see for yourself,” he said to me.
Adel is the brother of Alaa El-Din Reda Roshdi Salah El-Din, a Coptic Christian jailed for twenty five years for the conspiracy to murder.
THE BACKGROUND STORY
Alaa is a well known and respected politician and lawyer in the town of Abu Qurqas. The town itself has been renowned for years for its social conflict between Muslims and Christians. However, Adel says since 1996, there has been little of such rivalry. In fact, Alaa was revered by both the Muslims and Christians in Abu Qurqas.
In both 2005 and 2010 Alaa ran for a position as a member of parliament. Both times his success was reneged, and the position was given to the opposition, General Farouk Taha Abdullah.
Hosni Mubarak’s National Democratic party requested 10,000 Egyptian pounds from Alaa as a “membership fee”, in return for an endorsement during the election. The vote was nonetheless rigged and Alaa never acquired the seat.
2011 saw the Egyptian revolution of 25 January and shortly following, in March 2011, Alaa began litigation against Hosni Mubarak, Safwat El-Sherif, Ahmad Ezz and Baha Fekry (the General Secretary of the National Democratic Party), under charges of embezzlement for the 10,000 Egyptian pounds that had been taken from him.
The incident for which Alaa was jailed took place less than one moth later, in April 2011.
Until 5:30 pm, on the evening of 18 April 2011 the now imprisoned Alaa El-Din was in Cairo. He arrived at his villa in Abu Qurqas, unbeknownst to him the chaos that awaited him in the days to follow.
When Alaa arrived at his villa in Abu Qurqas, he went inside to put his bags down. He did not leave his villa until his arrest three days later.
Two people were murdered in the town of Abu Qurqas in the early morning of April 19th. They were shot with automatic weapons.
While Alaa was in Cairo he received another call about some damage which had occurred to a van near his Villa. He advised he would not be able to help until his arrival in Abu Qurqas. The first charge laid against Alaa was the damage to the victim’s van. When the defence requested the phone call to be used as evidence, they were denied. The charges were dropped on the basis that Alaa was in Cairo at the time the damage took place.
Hamdy Refaat, the head police of Abu Qurqas at the time had a heavy record of foul play. He was elected for the position four months earlier than usual protocol. When Hamdy Refaat was unsuccessful in pressing charges against Alaa, he conspired to frame him for something else entirely.
It is a crime in Egypt to incite hatred through words or actions, particularly between religions. Hamdy Refaat accused Alaa El-Din of speaking to him in a racist tone, so as to incite hatred and spark tension between the Muslims and the Christians. However, Adel defends his brother; “I am his brother and I have never heard him swear. He has always been a polite and conservative man. I am surprised to see him all of a sudden accused of being a monster.”
Adel began to read the statement left by Mostafa Zaki Ahmed, a general in the army: “I was directed to go to Abu Korkas with a state security force to control the disorder in the village as a result to the murder of two people earlier. I was also directed to secure the villa of the primary accused, Alaa Reda Roshdy. Once I arrived there, I placed number of officers in front of the Alaa’s villa. No one was allowed in or out unless proof of identification was shown. My men remained in front of Alaa’s house for a period of three days around the clock until he was arrested on 21st April 2011.”
No weapons were seized during the investigation and the autopsy on the bodies, according to the police statements, occurred in conflicting locations, conflicting times and by conflicting organisations.
The Islamic Preaching and Guidance Association of Egypt wrote a pledge in defence and honour of Alaa: “The association supports its beloved son, the lawyer, Alaa Reda Roshdi. He is committed to Abu Qurqas and helping solve any social, political or legal problems which arise in his village.”
In the meantime, two small cafes that Alaa owned in Abu Qurqas had been set alight and burned to the ground. In the end, Alaa lost both the businesses and everything inside them.
Before my eyes were nothing but words of praise about Alaa El-Din, nothing but conflicting police reports and a chaotic, unorganised amalgamation of information about the incident. The only consistency seemed to be that Alaa was nowhere to be found amidst all this pandemonium.
The thought of the SCAF’s involvement in the situation and the overwhelming power of the army sparked thoughts in the back of my mind. I suddenly became entangled in the idea of the conspiracy. When I asked Adel to make sense of my thoughts he responded that “the simple explanation is his opponent [Farouk] wanted Alaa out of the way and he has the upper hand in the army. This is how our country is run.”
Alaa was finally sentenced to 25 years in prison for the conspiracy to murder and for inciting hatred between Muslims and Christians. Eleven other Christians from Abu Qurqas were also jailed for various other crimes involving the same incident. All received a 25 year penalty with a 5 year parole.
The eight Muslims accused of being involved in the heinous incident, including those accused of burning the businesses of Alaa were acquitted.
Alaa’s mother, wife and children moved to Cairo after the police sieged the villa.
The verdict was appealed by the Egyptian Federation of Human Rights. Naguib Gabrael, the president of the organisation says the appeal has been heard, and in fact Alaa should be expecting some good news in the days to come. Naguib Gabrael says he expects either the sentence will be heavily reduced or cancelled entirely.
To quote the words of Alaa El-Din Reda Roshdi Salah El-Din, “If my problem is being a Christian, then I am proud of my problem.”