Egypt

Coptic group rejects Christmas greetings in protest of Maspero massacre

Coptic activists have expressed concerns over the trial of three soldiers accused of killing 14 Copts during the military’s bloody crackdown on Coptic protesters near the Maspero state TV building last October. Among those voicing concerns were activists from the Maspero Youth Coalition (MYC), who issued a statement rejecting official greetings for Coptic Christmas in light of the lack of justice for those killed.

The group made the statement on its Facebook site on Wednesday, and demanded the arrest of those behind the Alexandria church bombing in January 2011, as well as those responsible for the Maspero clashes in October.

On 9 October, nearly 27 people were killed in clashes between the army and protesters during a Coptic-led march outside the state-run TV building in Maspero. Video clips show army vehicles running over protesters, but army officials say the killings occurred by mistake and accused protesters of assaulting the armed forces.

Speaking to Egypt Independent about the Maspero massacre, Mena Thabet from the MYC told Egypt Independent: “Army vehicle drivers cannot move to run over protesters without an order from their commanders. If that happened without the knowledge of officers, it would be a catastrophe.”

Almost three months after the massacre, three soldiers were put on military trial for involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of the 14 Coptic protestors, but no commanders have been charged in relation to the incident.

In the other incident mentioned in the MYC statement, a bomb exploded at an Alexandria church on New Year's Eve one year ago, killing 23 Christians. The perpetrators have not yet been identified by the authorities, and many strongly suspect the involvement of Egyptian security forces in carrying out the attack as part of its campaign to stoke sectarian tensions. In particular, activists have long suspected that former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly bears some responsibility for the blast.

The group’s statement called for a silent vigil at 4:30 pm on Wednesday, outside the Abbasseya Cathedral in Cairo to object to invitations made by the Coptic Orthodox Church to Egyptian security officials and Islamist figures to attend its celebrations. It said evidence proves that state officials were involved in the crimes.

A controversy emerged over the past few days as some Salafi scholars and other figures said Muslims should not congratulate Copts on Christian feasts.

Noting last year’s carnage and church burnings, the statement said the group refuses to receive greetings from “those whose hands are stained with the bloods of honorable citizens. … We’ll take part in the celebrations but will not accept greetings.”

The group said it made its decision out of its respect for the Coptic community. In addition to voicing its objections to invitations extended to security officials and Islamist figures, it also rejected recent initiatives by the Muslim Brotherhood to protect churches during the event.

The Maspero Youth Union stressed its respect for the head of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Shenouda III, despite differences in political views.

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