Investigations are ongoing into Tuesday’s brutal murder of a Coptic shop owner in Alexandria who sold alcohol. Police arrested a 50-year-old suspect on Wednesday, identified as ‘Adel M.S.,’ according to the state-owned Middle East News Agency.
Coptic Christian Youssef Lamei’s murder caught the attention of news outlets and social media users, as it was captured on video by the shop’s surveillance camera.
The video shows a bearded man slitting Lamei’s throat as he sat outside his shop on Khaled Ibn al-Waleed Street in Alexandria smoking a shisha pipe. The shop owner is shown reaching for his throat following the attack, before he collapses.
Lamei’s son, Tony, told television host Gaber al-Qarmouty during a televised interview on the privately owned Al-Assema channel, that the attacker snuck up behind his father, and slit his throat without warning. The attack was not connected to any financial or commercial disputes, he said, adding that he had not seen his father’s attacker before.
Tony refuted claims the attacker chanted “Allahu akbar” (God is great) during the attack, but asked witnesses to step forward if they had heard any sectarian slogans.
Lamei’s two sons, along with a number of other witnesses, gave testimonies at the office of the East Alexandria District Prosecutor on Wednesday.
“There is no evidence whatsoever to indicate it was a sectarian act,” lawyer Ahmed Abu Alam, who attended the investigations with Lamei’s sons, told Mada Masr, although he did not dismiss this as a possibility. “Why would the suspect slaughter Youssef Lamei on the street and then immediately flee the scene of the crime?”
Youssef Lamei’s store, “Royal,” is not a liquor shop, it’s a “nut roastery that also sells beer,” according to the lawyer, who added, “there are several other clearly marked liquor shops on Khaled Ibn al-Waleed Street, many of which are owned or run by Muslims.”
An individual who attended Wednesday’s investigation, and asked to remain anonymous, said the suspect, Adel M.S., confessed to committing the crime and is the same man seen in the surveillance camera footage. He added that the crime was sectarian in nature.
The owner of the café next to Lamei’s store “testified that the assailant slaughtered him without hesitation, in a professional manner. He knew exactly what he was doing and which arteries to sever,” according to the anonymous source.
Director of minorities studies at the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, Mina Thabet, said the incident appears to have a sectarian element to it.
“Unlike Cairo, in Alexandria, there are several shops that sell alcoholic beverages alongside food items. In this case, the victim was the owner of a nut roastery. There are countless shops that openly sell liquor in Alexandria, so why was the owner of this one singled out?” Thabet commented to Mada Masr. “This may be an act of personal vengeance, or score settling, although his family and neighbors have stated that he didn’t have any enemies.”
“The conservative Salafi movement has a strong presence in Alexandria, and there has been lots of hate speech from Salafi preachers [against religious minorities],” Thabet claimed, adding that there is a need for religious reforms that promote tolerance, coexistence, democracy and human rights in Egypt, alongside tackling problems of illiteracy and poverty. Security responses are not enough, he added.
“I am distraught that my father was slaughtered before my eyes. I am distraught with this country, which used to be safe and secure,” Tony Lamei posted on his Facebook account. “All good things have parted from my world.”