Egypt drops case against mob that attacked Christian woman

Cairo — Egyptian prosecutors have thrown out a case brought by an elderly Christian woman against several members of a Muslim mob who stripped off her clothes and paraded her naked through the streets, her lawyer said Sunday.

Last May's assault in the central Minya province began after rumors spread that the son of the 70-year-old woman had an affair with a Muslim woman — a taboo in majority Muslim and conservative Egypt.

Saturday's decision by the prosecutors cited lack of sufficient evidence, according to the lawyer, Eihab Ramzy. Another case against the alleged perpetrators of the violence, which also targeted Christian homes, remains ongoing.

The woman, Souad Thabet, told a U.S.-based Christian TV station that she and her family are unable to return home to this day because of threats by Muslim extremists in the village. Ramzy said local authorities have pressed the family to reconcile with Muslims in the village.

"It's a calamity," Ramzy told The Associated Press about the prosecutors' decision to throw out the case. "The preliminary investigation heard testimonies supporting her account from family members and policemen at the scene."

At the time of the attack, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi called for the culprits to be held accountable and gave the military a month to restore property damaged during the violence, at no cost to the owners.

A presidential statement issued then praised the role of "glorious Egyptian women" and said "the rights and the protection of their dignity are a humanitarian and patriotic commitment before being a legal and constitutional one."

El-Sissi has since taking office in 2014 been reaching out to the religious leadership of Egypt's Christian minority. He attended this month's Christmas Mass for Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church, the country's main Christian denomination. Last month, he led a state funeral for the victims of a suicide bombing in a Cairo church that killed nearly 30 people, mostly women.

The bombing, claimed by the extremist Islamic State group, shook the community and raised questions about the adequacy of the security provided for Christian places of worship. Christian activists have long maintained that el-Sissi has not done enough to address the discrimination faced by Christians, who are often denied top jobs in security agencies or academia.

Discrimination against Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the population, is subtle in big cities like Cairo or Alexandria, but becomes much more pronounced in provinces like Minya, where they are a sizable minority.

"The government is allowing the oppressors to walk free on the streets," Thabet told the TV channel. "This is our village that we were born and raised in ... How can we be the victims and not be able to return to our village and homes?"