Trial opens on tribal feud violence in southern Egypt
ASSIUT, Egypt (AP) — A criminal court in the southern Egyptian city of Assiut began proceedings Saturday over a bloody tribal feud that killed 26 people over the course of three days last April.
The clashes in Aswan province, about 880 kilometers (550 miles) from the capital, involved an Arab clan and a Nubian family. The 163 defendants, 75 of whom are in custody, face charges including murder, incitement, robbery and kidnapping.
The case was initially set to take place in Aswan but was moved to Assiut after authorities said they couldn’t guarantee the safety of the courthouse.
On Saturday security forces cordoned off the area near the Assiut court complex to keep the defendants’ families at bay. Inside the courtroom, the defendants, locked in a bloody feud just months before, exchanged greetings and wished each other a happy new year.
“The Daboudiya and Halaliya tribes are one hand,” they chanted in unison as the judge called for order in the court.
“We don’t want anything from anyone. The police fabricated the case against us and that is the cause of the whole problem. They didn’t intervene from the beginning to end the problem and ultimately exacerbated it,” said one defendant.
He spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear for his safety.
The defense lawyers maintain that the prosecution has made errors in their case; for example they say one of the men listed as a defendant has actually been dead since 1981.
Outside the court, a relative of one of the accused said his brother wasn’t even present at the time of the events, and was arrested while sitting at a coffee shop. He also spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear for his safety.
Last April police said the clashes originally began over the harassment of a girl. Local leaders said then that police were mostly absent from the streets, causing the violence to spread prior to mediation talks.
Tribal fighting is not uncommon in Egypt, but is unusual in the largely touristic Aswan area.