Despite the fact that there are no charges against them, six Copts are still detained by the police in the village of Saft al-Kharsa in al-Fashn, Beni Sweif, 100km south of Cairo. Tharwat William, the lawyer representing the six Copts Ishaq Fahim Girgis, Nadi Yacoub Girgis, Matta Nadi Yacoub, Yacoub Nadi Yacoub, Ezzat Samir Fahmy, and Adel Aziz, told Watani that the Copts have been detained for over a week now without any complaints or reports against them, and without a prosecution order for their detention.
The six Copts had been caught on Friday 22 July in the wake of an attack by fanatic Muslims against the Copts of Saft al-Kharsa on suspicion that the Copts would convert a building under construction, owned by Nadi Yacoub, into a church. The house is a two-storey building erected on a piece of land 250sq.m. in area; the lower floor includes four rooms and a workshop, whereas the area of the upper floor includes no dividing walls or separators.
After Friday noon prayers, an extremist Muslim mob gathered and waged an attack against the Coptic villagers. To cries of Allahu Akbar (Allah is the Greatest), they hurled stones at Coptic houses, terrorising the inmates especially the women and children. Seven Coptic-owned homes incurred damages, as well as a car belonging to Yacoub.
The police immediately arrived and dispersed the fanatic demonstration using tear gas. They caught six Copts and 18 Muslims pending investigations. The police did not leave the village till the following day when a conciliation was worked out between the Copts and Muslims of the village. The conciliation was orchestrated by the village elders as well as the local politicians Ali Abu-Dawla and Gamal Hindi. Beni Sweif security officials attended as observers. It was decided that the house under construction should be used for residence, and that the upper floor may be used for weddings or funerals but may not be converted into a church unless all the necessary official permits are obtained.
The 18 Muslims who were detained by the police have been questioned by the prosecution which ordered an extension of their detention for another 15 days. They were charged with disrupting public peace, violating personal freedom, damaging a house and car, and inciting violence. The six Copts, on the other hand, were not charged with any crime or misdemeanour, and were not prosecuted. Yet they are still in police custody.
Saft al-Kharsa is home to 50 Coptic [extended] families that make a 300-strong Coptic congregation, and includes no church. The nearest church is 12km away in the village of Abu-Bushra.
The authorities in Beni Sweif have gained a reputation for not tolerating attacks against Copts. Some two weeks ago, a Copt in the Beni Sweif village of Beni Bekheit was accused of killing a Muslim. Normally, this would have triggered a ferocious attack against the Copts. In Beni Bekheit, however, the security authorities deployed large forces that worked to guard against any such attack till, a week later, investigations revealed the Copt was innocent; a Muslim man confessed to having committed the crime.
30 July 2016