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Egypt court gives one-year suspended sentence to 19 people over Atfih church attack

Ahram Online , Wednesday 31 Jan 2018
church
The damaged church shortly after the attack (Photo: Al-Ahram)
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A Cairo misdemeanour court sentenced on Wednesday 19 people to a one-year suspended sentence and handed each an EGP 500 fine over an attack on a Coptic Christian church in Giza's Atfih.

Last month, dozens of Muslims in Atfih's Kafr El-Waslin village vandalised the church over a rumour that church officials were planning to install a bell at the building, according to church officials.

The court has also fined the Christian owner of the building EGP 360,000 (around $20,370) for using the building as a religious site without a permit.

A senior Christian cleric in Atfih said at the time of the incident that the diocese had applied to obtain a permit for the church after the country's new church building law was passed in 2016. The cleric added that the church had been holding prayer services for 15 years.

Christians make up around 10 percent of Egypt's 96 million people.

Before the 2016 church building law was passed, Egyptian Christians had long struggled to obtain permits to build churches, with the process at times taking years.

Some congregations were forced to build unlicensed churches or carry out their religious rites in buildings that were not officially designated for religious use. The presence of these unlicensed churches has occasionally sparked sectarian violence between Muslims and Christians in rural areas.

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