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Copts Call for the Release of 20 Detained Christian Minors

Washington, D.C. (December 9, 2010) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that more than 20 minors were among the 168 Coptic Christians arrested in Giza during a protest over the reconstruction of St. Mary’s Church in Egypt. Copts rallied for the release of the minors and called for the prosecution of top government officials in front of the High Court in Cairo on Saturday.

On November 24, Egyptian security forces cordoned off St. Mary’s Church in Talbiya, a poor Christian suburb south of Cairo, after declaring that further construction of the church was illegal. More than 1,000 Copts retaliated by protesting the police interference, as they had previously been told by government officials that the church’s construction had been approved and that their permits were valid. Security forces fired on the unarmed protestors with live ammunition and rubber bullets. Both Copts and security forces threw stones at each other.

Four Copts were reportedly killed in the protests, including three young men and a four-year-old child who suffocated from tear gas. One hundred and sixty-eight Copts were arrested, including more than 20 minors under the age of 18 who were sent to Al-Marg Juvenile Detention Center.

On December 4, Dr. Naguib Ghobrial, head of the Egyptian Union for Human Rights, organized a demonstration joined by both Christians and Muslims in front of Egypt’s High Court to demand the release of the detained minors. Ghobrial also called for the resignation and prosecution of the Governor of Giza and the Chief of State Security in Giza who reportedly authorized the use of live ammunition against the protestors. “They used real bullets and with these bullets they killed two people,” Ghobrial said.

We want to free our kids. Why do they have our kids?” said Mona Farous, a protestor who held a sign displaying photos of the arrested youth. “I went to visit the children in the hospital. There are thirty-eight of them, and more in the prisons.”
Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “While most attacks against Egypt’s Coptic Christians are committed by Muslim mob violence, the Talbiya attack on unarmed protestors was the first incident in recent memory authorized by branches of the Egyptian government and carried out by Egyptian security forces. Anti-Christian persecution in Egypt is reaching a new level, as Copts are no longer merely discriminated against, but are in fact being targeted and murdered by the government. We urge President Hosni Mubarak to take immediate action by bringing those who authorized this attack to justice and by releasing those who have been arrested unjustly, especially the children. If action is not taken, it will be clear to all that Mubarak’s regime and Egyptian courts condone, and even support, government induced violence upon Christians.”

For interviews, contact Aidan Clay, Regional Manager for the Middle East: [email protected]