Case reopens against men accused of stripping elderly Coptic woman in Egypt

A damaged home belonging to one of seven Christian families, whose houses were looted and set on fire by Muslim men, is seen at Al-Karm village in the southern province of Minya, Egypt May 27, 2016. | Reuters/Ahmed Aboulenein

Egyptian authorities have reinstated the case against the three men who were accused of stripping a 70-year-old woman naked in public on the streets of Minya province in Egypt.

The case against the three men was dropped by the prosecutors last month, citing lack of evidence, despite the victim, Soad Thabet, identifying the perpetrators, World Watch Monitor reported.

However, a court reopened the case last Wednesday, following an appeal by Thabet's legal team, who claimed that the witnesses retracted their original testimonies after they received threats.

Thabet was attacked by a mob last May after her Christian son was accused of having an affair with a Muslim woman. Her son had already fled to a neighboring town, so the mob dragged her into the street and beat her instead. The attack only stopped when a Muslim man covered her body with his jellabiya, a traditional garment, and took her to safety.

"I was hoping that they will be punished. The people who comfort me say that Jesus was himself stripped naked. Now, I complain only to God, and hope he brings justice. Is there anyone stronger than God?" Thabet told the Telegraph last month.

The mob also burned down her home along with six other Christian houses. Thabet and her husband were forced to flee the village, which is home to 10,000 Christians among 30,000 Muslims.

The attack caused outrage among Egyptians and prompted an apology from President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi.

The president ordered that all the damaged houses be repaired at the expense of the Armed Forces, but Thabet said that her family is still too frightened to return to the village.

Following the incident, the Diocese of Minya released a statement, calling for justice.

"We have people getting killed and there is no one answering for it, money stolen, houses looted, girls kidnapped ... and we bear it all and let it pass, but now there is escalation," Bishop Makarios, the highest Coptic church official in Minya, told Reuters that time.

"We get told, take reconciliation because it is better for you than other bad scenarios and people are simple and just want to live in peace, but this time people won't have it," the bishop added.