By BosNewsLife Middle East Service
CAIRO, EGYPT (BosNewsLife)– Four Coptic Christian men who were in one of Egypt’s main churches when it was attacked by an angry Muslim crowd have been jailed, though they were innocent, Christian rights activists said Saturday, April 13.
Two of those detained were identified as Shadi Sami and Michael Morcos, while names of the two others were not immediately released.
The jailed believers were among hundreds of mourners attending last Sunday’s funeral service in Cairo’s St Mark’s Cathedral for four Coptic Christian men. They died in sectarian violence on April 5 in Khosous, some 16 kilometers (10 miles) from Cairo.
“These arrests [of the Christians] 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,” said Andrew Johnston, advocacy director of advcacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
Christians said the detained men and other mourners were pelted with stones, petrol bombs, and Molotov cocktails, following the funeral, forcing them to seek shelter in the grounds of the Cathedral.
As stones and other missiles continued to be hurled from the roofs of surrounding buildings and by people who had climbed the walls of the Cathedral, young Coptic men took up sticks and rocks to retaliate, according to CSW investigators.
Two Coptic men were killed in Sunday’s violence while 84 were injured, including Michael Morcos, who required sixteen stitches to the head after being hit by a glass bottle, Christians said.
When police eventually arrived at the scene, they fired teargas into the grounds of the Cathedral and did nothing to end the attack, which continued for at least five hours, Christians claimed.
Police have said they tried to intervene and quell the violence. No reasons were given for the arrest of the four Christians, who activists claimed were “victims”, not perpetrators of crime.
“Only God can save us from what is happening right now,” said Mina Zakaraya, a 25-year-old Coptic seminarian who was positioned inside the compound in published remarks.
The violence have added concerns among Christians, who make up some 10 percent of Egypt’s 85 million.
Christians say there have been a growing number of often deadly attacks in Muslim-majority Egypt since the overthrow of former President Hosni Mubarak in 2011 gave more freedom to hardline Islamists who were repressed under his rule.
President Mohamed Mursi, a Muslim Brotherhood leader elected in June, has condemned anti-Christian violence and “any actions aimed at disrupting unity and cohesion of Egyptian society.”
However Johnston told BosNewsLife that the random arrests of Christians show injustice. “Two Copts were killed during the attack on the Cathedral; four more died in Khosous, yet not one of their attackers has been arrested,” he noted.
“Such discrepancies in the discharge of justice contribute to impunity, and can only foster more sectarianism. They also sends a clear message that Christians are not viewed as equal citizens, despite the government’s verbal protestations to the contrary,” he said.
Egypt should respect “international covenants that prohibit discrimination,” he added.
“Being in the Cathedral identifies these men as victims, not perpetrators. 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,” he said.
It was not immediately clear Saturday, April 13, when and if the men will be released and brought before a court.
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is ‘Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals’ since 2004).
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