Six Coptic men from the village of al-Beida in Amriya, also known as Amreya, south of Alexandria, have been charged with holding prayers without permission and erecting a building without permit. The Copts had been caught by the police, together with six Muslims, in the wake of sectarian violence which erupted Friday 17 June on account of suspicion that the Copts intended to turn a house owned by a member of their community into a church. The Muslims were set free, even though they were the ones who waged the attack against the Copts.
+“We’ll bring down the church”+
Following Friday noon prayers a Muslim mob had gathered and, shouting Islamic slogans and cheering against the Copts, headed to a house under construction owned by the Copt Maurice Aziz who goes by the name Naeem Aziz. On the way they threw stones at Coptic-owned houses in the village. Once at the site of Aziz’s house, they attempted to destroy the building and the construction material that was being used to erect the house. They assaulted and injured Naeem and his brother Moussa, and terrorised the women and children who were at home in a house adjacent to the one under construction. “I was building this house for my sons,” Naeem said. “The mob attacked on rumours that it would be turned into a church.”
The police arrived at the scene, but the mobbing continued. The police evacuated Naeem’s house and nearby Coptic homes, but did not protect them against the mob which broke in and damaged and plundered the houses. The mob also attacked a community centre that lies adjacent to the Aziz house and that that belongs to the local church of the Holy Virgin and the Archangel Michael. They assaulted the Coptic men who attempted to defend the centre, damaged the priest’s car which was parked there, and burned a motorcycle.
The mobbing continued to shouts of: “By no means shall there be a church here”; “we’ll bring down the church to the earth”; and “Islamic, Islamic! Egypt will remain Islamic!”
The police caught six Muslims and six Copts, among them Naeem and Moussa Aziz, but released the Muslims before sunset—it is currently Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting from dawn to sunset. The Copts were charged with holding prayers without permission, and building without permit. At dawn the following day, they were released on bail. According to Ramy Qashwa of the Coptic Maspero Youth Union, the victimised Copts were turned into offenders. He says that the entire village, some 1500 houses, has been built unofficially without permits.
The Aziz brothers were banned from going into their home—they live on the ground floor of the building which came under attack and which was put under police ‘protection’.
Father Karass, pastor of the church of the Holy Virgin and the Archangel Michael, told ++Watani++ that the church-owned community centre was built in 2009 after the Church bought it from Naeem Aziz. The building, Fr Karass says, is composed of a ground floor and two upper floors, and serves the needs of 85 [extended] families. The Azizes temporarily occupy the ground floor till the adjacent house they are building for themselves is complete.
The Beida crisis and the violence against its Copts prompted MP Muhammad Abu-Hamed to demand of Ali Abdel-Aal, Speaker of the parliament, to question the Prime Minister and the ministers of interior and justice on the matter. He said that, according to the Constitution Article 134, the incident qualifies as a terrorist crime that warrants questioning the officials involved.
18 June 2016