Two convicted for attacking Coptic sit-in in Egypt, while 16 walk

Ahram Online, Sunday 5 Jun 2011

Sixteen suspects facing accusations related to last month’s attacks ‎on the Coptic sit-in were ‎found not guilty, another two were convicted but given bail

A Cairo court gave a verdict of not guilty to 16 suspects facing accusations related to last month’s attacks ‎on the Coptic sit-in, which was staged in front of the state radio and television building, known as Maspero.‎
Another two men were convicted and each sentenced to two years in jail with labour, however, they ‎were granted bail, according to reports from the official state media agency, MENA. ‎

The 18 men were accused of “acts of thuggery,” as they are known in Egypt, terrorising and threatening peaceful citizens as well as damaging public property.‎

The Christian sit-in began after 12 people were killed on 8 May in clashes sparked by ‎rumours that Christians were holding a woman against her will who had converted to Islam. ‎

On 14 May, the protesters suffered bloody attacks when ‎‎a huge number of thugs ‎systematically assaulted and injured many of them, using firearms, knives, ‎stones and ‎Molotov ‎cocktails.‎

The protesters decided to end their sit-in five days later after authorities agreed to open three ‎churches, including one in Ain Shams. Copts have faced discrimination, even on governmental levels, as their churches are sometimes closed, or have to get special permits for even minor renovations, whereas Mosques don’t.‎

The protesters had a change of heart after clashes erupted while trying to open the Ain ‎Shams church, in which eight Christians were detained, according to protesters.‎

The country's ruling military council, under pressure to end sectarian tensions, has ordered ‎new laws to be drafted that criminalise sectarian violence and ease restrictions on building churches.‎

The cabinet statement said authorities would renovate churches damaged by violence and ‎re-open a number of churches that were closed in the past by authorities without ‎explanation. ‎

Prime Minister Essam Sharaf had also promised in a statement made on 11 May that a ‎unified law for building houses of worship will be created within 30 days. ‎

The protesters actually ended their sit-in on 21 May.‎

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