Monday, April 15, 2013

Copts Arrested in Egypt Following Attack on St. Mark's Cathedral

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

CAIRO (ANS) -- Egyptian authorities have arrested four Coptic men who were at St. Mark's Cathedral when it was attacked last weekend.

According to a story by human rights agency Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Shadi Sami was arrested at 4 am, while Michael Morcos was arrested at 6 am by Special Forces who stormed the back entrance of his apartment.

It appears the men were detained for being on the grounds of St. Mark's Cathedral at the time of the Sunday attack. Two other Coptic men were also arrested, according to the Coptic Maspero Youth Union.

CSW said the men were amongst hundreds of people who attended Sunday's funeral at St. Mark's for four Coptic men who were killed in sectarian violence on April 5 in Khosous, a town 10 miles from Cairo.

As mourners left the funeral, they were attacked with stones, petrol bombs and Molotov cocktails, forcing them to seek shelter in the grounds of the Cathedral. As the stones and other missiles were thrown from the roofs of surrounding buildings and by people who had climbed the walls of the Cathedral, CSW said young Coptic men picked up sticks and rocks to retaliate.

Two Coptic men were killed during the violence and 84 were injured, including Michael Morcos, who required sixteen stitches to the head after being hit by a glass bottle. CSW said when police eventually arrived at the scene, they fired teargas into the grounds of the Cathedral but did nothing to end the attack, which continued for at least five hours.

Andrew Johnston, CSW's advocacy director, said in the news release, "These arrests come at a time when the Coptic community in Egypt is still coming to terms with an unprecedented attack on the headquarters of the Coptic Orthodox Church and the violence in Khosous. Two Copts were killed during the attack on the Cathedral; four more died in Khosous, yet not one of their attackers has been arrested. Such discrepancies in the discharge of justice contribute to impunity, and can only foster more sectarianism."

Johnston added, "They also sends a clear message that Christians are not viewed as equal citizens, despite the government's verbal protestations to the contrary, and the fact that Egypt is party to international covenants that prohibit discrimination. Being in the Cathedral identifies these men as victims, not perpetrators."

He concluded, "CSW therefore urges their immediate release, and calls on the Egyptian authorities to focus instead on apprehending assailants caught on camera as they attacked the Cathedral with stones and guns."

Christian Solidarity Worldwide works for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

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