By BosNewsLife Middle East Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
CAIRO, EGYPT (BosNewsLife)– Egypt’s attorney general has reportedly ordered the detention of 156 Christian protesters following deadly clashes with riot police in a suburb of the capital Cairo where authorities halted construction of a church, BosNewsLife monitored Thursday, November 25.
At least one Christian was killed and dozens wounded Wednesday, November, 24, in fighting between security forces and over 3,000 Coptic Christians who tried to continue building the church in Giza, near Egypt’s pyramids, witnesses said.
The identity of the killed Christian was not immediately released.
Egyptian officials claimed Giza province’s deputy security chief and a dozen security officials were also injured in the riot. Demonstrators allegedly hurled stones at police officers who responded with tear gas. Some officers threw them back and Muslims also lobbed rocks at the Christian protesters from behind the security cordon, witnesses said.
Egypt’s official news agency MENA said Thursday, November 25, that the attorney general decided to hold 156 protesters for 15 days “on suspicion of inciting the riots.” It was unclear whether they had been officially charged with crimes.
Thirty lawyers have reportedly tried to attend police questioning of the detained Coptic protestors but were blocked from entering the public prosecutor’s office in Giza.
Five lawyers who later managed to enter the building were told by the general prosecutor that they could attend the questioning but could not consult privately with the accused, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights said in published remarks.
“The prosecutors denied the lawyers’ request to consult privately with the accused. They refused to put on record the lawyers’ arguments questioning the validity of the proceedings and they also refused to put on record the injuries sustained by some of the accused,” news reports quoted the group as saying.
Giza Governor Sayyed Abdel-Aziz told reporters however that the Christians misused a permit for a social center to build a church.
Christians said they had the right documents and would continue to build the three-floors domed structure. Coptic activist Miriam Ragey reportedly said, “The moment Muslims saw the church domes being built, they went mad.”
It was the latest in a series of incidents in Egypt where Coptic Christians frequently complain about unfair treatment and under-representation in the majority Muslim country.
There have also been widespread reports that Coptic women and girls were kidnapped and forced to marry with Muslim men and convert to Islam.
Copt is a word derived from the Greek name Aigyptos, which means Egypt. Coptic Christians are believed to be among the largest and oldest Christian communities in the Middle East. They comprise about 10 percent of Egypt’s population of 80 million people, according to several estimates.