Egypt releases nine Coptic Christians arrested after protest
Egypt freed nine Coptic Christians detained three months ago after staging a protest demanding their church be rebuilt
They were released on Sunday morning, the day Coptic Christians celebrate Easter [Getty]
Egyptian state security has released nine Coptic Christians detained for nearly three months following a protest demanding the reconstruction of their church, rights groups said on Sunday.
The nine residents of the village of Ezbet Faragallah, in Minya governorate, south of Cairo, were part of a demonstration of about 70 people who on January 22 demanded the restoration of their church, burnt down five years earlier. early.
They were released on Sunday morning, the day Coptic Christians celebrate Easter, the village priest said. AFP.
The nine villagers were charged with “participation in a gathering that endangers public peace and of having committed a terrorist act with the aim of disturbing public security”, according to the Egyptian Initiative for Human Rights (EIPR). ), an advocacy organization.
The Church of St. Joseph and Abu Sefein was destroyed in a fire in 2016, which some described as a “deliberate act”, according to EIPR. It was officially demolished in July 2021.
The church submitted a request for reconstruction, but received no response from authorities, although a 2016 law specifies a maximum response time of four months.
In a statement last month, rights watchdog Amnesty International called for the residents’ release, saying authorities had “for years ignored calls to rebuild the church, leaving around 800 Coptic Christians without a place to worship in their village”.
Although the Church Building and Renovation Act 2016 is meant to address longstanding difficulties in obtaining licenses to build churches, rights groups say it has only entrenched the religious discrimination.
According to EIPR, authorities have conditionally approved less than 40 percent of applications to build or repair churches since the law came into effect, and only 20 percent have received final approval.
Coptic Christians, the largest non-Muslim religious minority in the Middle East, make up around 10-15% of Egypt’s majority Sunni population of 103 million.
The community has long complained of discrimination and under-representation.