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NDP spokesperson blames Copts for clashes

NDP spokesperson says Copts incited violence, provoking police to react

Staff, Saturday 27 Nov 2010
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A National Democratic Party (NDP) spokesman has placed the blame for this week's violence in Omraneya on the district's Coptic community, saying the clashes were the result of their failure to observe the legal status of the building.

"The government has given them a permit to construct a services center for a church but not a church,” NDP Spokesperson Ali el-Din Helal said.

Helal said it was "a surprise to see a dome being built, indicating that they were building a church, which was not what was agreed on. The district in turn decided to suspend construction.”

Residents of the area say the moratorium was issued based on the addition of a staircase, not a dome. 

The permit, which was issued several years ago, was suspended this week. Demonstrators subsequently surrounded the premises, protesting the construction halt, and what they criticized as part of widespread government-supported alienation and persecution. Subsequent clashes between protestors and anti-riot police left two people dead and dozens injured.

Helal has said that police forces were initially there to protect those demonstrating against the suspension. He placed the blame on the demonstrators for initiating the violence and inciting the police to react.

Egypt's minority Christian Copts make up 6-10 percent of the country's 80 million population. They have long been the subject of wide-spread marginalization and persecution. The violence in the Cairene district of Omraneya this week was one of several incidents of violence this year. In January, eight Copts were killed in a church drive-by shooting.  

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