The families were forcibly removed from Kobry-el-Sharbat in Alexandria in a “humiliating” agreementmade on 1 February to placate Muslims who had twice attacked Christian property there. The violence at the end of January had been sparked by an unsubstantiated rumour that a Christian man, Mourad Girguis, had taken illicit images of a Muslim woman.
Christians protested against the eviction order, and Christian MP Dr Emad Gad attempted to raise the matter, and the wider issue of unofficial “reconciliation meetings”, in parliament.
A fact-finding commission delegated by the Egyptian parliament then met with representatives of the evicted Christian families, members of the tribunal that had ordered their removal, and two Christian leaders.
At a public meeting in Alexandria on 16 February, the commission nullified the rulings of the tribunal. It called for the safe return of the five Soliman families, who had not been involved in the dispute over the images, to their homes.
The commission referred a decision to the judiciary on the return of the three families related to Mourad Girguis and also the Muslims who burned down the homes of Christians.
Mr Girguis was charged and released on bail on 15 February. But there appears to be no evidence against him.
Dr Gad said:
The video about a Muslim woman was not found and there is no evidence of the woman having existed. This proves that, as suspected, the accusations were fabricated in order to forcibly evict Mourad Girguis and his family from the village.
Elsewhere in Egypt, anti-Christian violence rages on. A church in the village of Meet Bashar in Zagazig, Sharqia province, has been torched, the Rev. Guirgis Gameel threatened with death, and the homes and vehicles of Christians set alight.
The violence broke out over the disappearance of teenager Rania Khalil, the daughter of a Christian mother and a father who converted to Islam. Rania went to live with her father six months ago and is said to have converted to Islam. On 12 February, she abruptly vanished. Mr Gameel said she had had a disagreement with her father, who had arranged for her to marry a Muslim man.
Accusing the church of holding Rania, a mob of thousands of Muslims attacked the building with stones and petrol bombs. Violence continued for the next three days until it was revealed that the 16-year-old had not been kidnapped and was at the local security directorate.