Military police forcibly disperse Coptic sit-in

Military police on Wednesday morning forcibly evacuated hundreds of Coptic demonstrators from the area outside the state TV building in Maspero, where they were protesting an assault on an Aswan church.

The Maspero Youth Union and Free Copts, both Coptic activist groups, had declared an open-ended sit-in in objection to the Friday attack. They demanded the removal of Aswan's governor and a new church.

Members  of the Free Egyptians party, founded by Coptic business mogul Naguib Sawiris, and the Popular Socialist Coalition party also attended the protest.

Clashes between Muslims and Christians erupted In the town of Edfu when Christians converted a private guesthouse into a church by building an extra floor and a dome, allegedly without a license.

Hytham Kameel, a senior member of Copts Without Restrictions, said the permits obtained to build the church were valid. He said the governor should be prosecuted and the church rebuilt.

Edfu's Muslims said no official documents proved that the disputed building was meant to be a church and that it was a privately-owned home sold to Anba Hedra, the archbishop of Aswan.

The protesters outside Maspero called for the arrest of a Muslim man they call Sheikh Mostafa, accusing him of instigating an attack on the church.

Military forces fired in the air Wednesday to disperse the demonstrators. Some protesters were arrested, while unconfirmed reports said a number of demonstrators were injured.

Central Security backup forces arrived at the scene to prevent protesters from regrouping.

The sit-in was preceded by a massive march from Shubra, a neighborhood with a large Christian population, to the High Court in downtown Cairo, where demonstrators blocked traffic for the second time. They had also blocked the roads on Saturday for two hours.

Some burned posters of Aswan's governor.

A fact-finding panel formed by the cabinet visited the disputed site, meeting with Muslim and Coptic citizens and local officials. The panel's final report has not been released, but panel member Antoine Adel noted that the committee verified the attack on the church.

Translated from the Arabic Edition

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