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Coptic youth group to protest prison sentence of Egyptian priest

The Coptic Youth plan to protest the jail sentence given to the priest of El-Marinab church, which had been attacked by Muslims and caused an outcry among Christians

Ahram Online, Saturday 10 Mar 2012
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File Photo from clashes in deadly pro-Coptic demonstration on Sunday 9 October to protest the demolition of El-Marinab church (Photo: Reuters)
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The Maspero Youth Union, a revolutionary Coptic youth group, has called for a demonstration to take place on Sunday in front of the general prosecutor's office at the Supreme Court to protest a prison sentence given to priest Makarius Boulos of the Mar Girgis Church in El-Marinab, Upper Egypt.

Father Boulos was handed a six-month prison sentence on charges of violating construction regulations. His church was found to be a few metres higher than permitted.

Activists organising the demonstration object that double standards are used when applying construction laws to churches.

In September 2010, El-Marinab Copts submitted a request to renovate the aging church building to the government's civil engineering department. Instead, inspectors recommended that the building be demolished and rebuilt.

After obtaining the license, Copts began to rebuild the church. However, a large Muslim protest showed up at the church site and demanded that all construction work be demolished. Police and army officers who interfered to avoid clashes ordered a freeze on the construction of all remaining walls and suspended worship in the church until they reached a resolution.

Individuals claiming to represent the Muslims of El-Marinab said they objected to building a church in the village because they claimed that the numbers of Copts in the village of 18,000 Muslims was only 75. After negotiations, Muslim leaders finally  agreed to allow the resumption of construction, on four conditions: that the church would not use bells; no loudspeakers would be mounted on the front of the edifice; no crucifixes would hang on the outside of the church; and finally, the dome must be torn down and removed entirely.

Accordingly, a few days after the meeting, the engineering department visited the church and took measurements. Department inspectors issued one height violation in the name of Boulos, the church's priest.

The case received much more publicity because Copts held a protest march, which was attacked by police and resulted in several being run over by armoured vehicles in what is known as the "Maspero Massacre."

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