9 Copts Detained, 3 Wounded, Cattle Dead, Due to Police Using Tear Gas Towards Copts Church Disapproves of Police Action and Infringements on Copts' and Their Properties
The Assiut security forces, supported by bulldozers, demolished on Thursday, the brick wall fencing surrounding a space of land owned by Copts,in the estate of "El-Oskof", Alkosiah district.
When the Copts tried to object to this illegal demolition, the police engaged them and fired tear gas shells, wounding six Copts, three of them were women, besides causing the death of cattle that were inside the boundary fence.
The police arrested 9 of the Copts who opposed this measure, and referred them to Koussiah Investigation Department..
A Coptic inhabitant portrayed the incident by saying that the Copts in "El-Oskof" estate represent 50% of the six thousand inhabitants. Three Copts, who were working in Kuwait, purchased a plot of land on the estate, with an area of 6 carats, equivalent to 1050 m2. The three Copts who were joint owners, are Nadi Attallah Galab ,Hishmat Marzook Galab and Morzak Thabet Botros. This land is located nearly 30 meters away from the Church of Our Lady on the estate.
Three months ago the owners fenced off the land by building a brick fence around it to protect and demarcate its boundaries; meanwhile they used it for rearing some cattle. During the fence’s construction a number of Muslims gathered and tried to demolish the fence, but the police intervened and arrested the three Coptic owners of the land, and they were forced to give commitments and affidavits that this land may not be donated or waived to the church!!!
They were released after their case was referred to the Prosecution to examine the erections carried out on the land, and the matter is now before the courts.
The source added that three months passed without any problems, as the matter was in the hands of the judiciary, and a hearing was to take place in February. We were surprised, when yesterday January 21, the security forces of Assiut, together with a number of leading security personalities and the Investigations Unit of Alkosiah district, along with two bulldozers, transgress the land and demolished the boundary fencing without any writs or advanced notice.
Ten people were arrested including a stranger who happened to be going through the village. They are all still held at Alkosiah police station.
The fence was totally leveled out, and when the Copts objected to these procedures and arbitrary attacks, the police dealt violently with them and fired tear gas shells towards them.
Some livestock within the fenced area died as a result of suffocation from the tear gas smoke.
The clashes resulted in the wounding of at least six Copts, including Mrs. Sharbat Shouhdy Sedrack, 31 years, who had just undergone an operation to remove breast cancer, and who was abused by one of the officers, causing her operation wound to bleed. Other injured were Mrs.
Samia Saleh Abduh, Mrs.Arzak Adly Gendy, as well as Walid Roshdy Zaky,
25 years, Girgis Tawab Abdul-Massih and Said Hishmat Marozouk.
The police arrested 9 people on charges of obstructing the police, in addition to a stranger who coincidently was driving his van through the village at the time. They are now all in custody at Alkosiah police station.
Mr.Ezzat Habib, a local lawyer and human rights activist, said that the actions of the security forces are illigal, represents a brutal and unprovoked attack on peaceful Coptic citizens, and a transgression on their property, besides causing the death of their livestock.
He pointed out that the land on which the assaults took place is legally owned by the Copts, and can be used for the purpose of building dwellings, and is actually surrounded by many villas owned by the village mayor and a number of rich Muslims, and no one has ever objected against them. Besides, the case of this land in, is still pending before the judiciary, for which a hearing is set for February 16, 2009, and the judiciary decisions have to be respected. He added that the executive authorities have, therefore, violated the rights of the judiciary, and put it in an embarrassing situation by carrying out an assault on the land, prior to its consideration before the courts; they intented to destroy the security fence before the upcoming court session, which they know will rule in favour of the landowners.
The security authorities are sowing strife, he added, it fears that the church will lay its hand on this land, which is what it has been propagating among the Islamic community, to spoil the relations
between brothers, Muslims and Christians, within the estate, and despite getting affidavits from the landowners not to donate or waive the land to
the church. This action is also illegal because it is the right of
everyone to do what he wishes with what he owns. However, the security authorities’ main concern and their permanent vigilance is towards any reference to a church or to prayer. This made them have fears concerning those simple Copts, who went abroad to work in Kuwait, in order to secure the future of their children, by buying this land to build on it for their children and to rear some cattle. However, this was too good a fortune for them, from the standpoint of the security authorities, and their crime was that the church is located only a short distance away, not exceeding 30 meters.
This is the disaster meeting every Copt wishing to build a new home, as suspicions loom over him that he is building a church, or something for the benefit of the church.
Habib criticized Alkosiah Central Hospital, which did not provide medical care and refused to issue medical reports to the injured. Besides, the use of tear gas against the Coptic citizens, underlines the savagery used by the security authorities against the Copts.
He wondered, why the security authorities did not demolition the houses which surround this land, and which are owned by Muslims? Why are they always targeting the Copts and any buildings which happen to be close to a Church?? What else can we call this, except evident discrimination against the Copts? Why did security not wait for the court sentence in February?
and in the end of all that, arrest the Coptic victims who sought to defend their property!!!
Habib expressed his sorrow over the psychological state of Reverend Jeremiah Awad, pastor of the Church of Our Lady, in "El-Oskof" estate, who is suffering greatly, as a result of the police abuse of his people, which reached the stage that the police destroyed the irrigation point which feeds the farms, destroyed the electricity poles, and assaulted the innocent Copts with sticks and batons.
Rev. Jeremiah Awad, pastor of the Church of Our Lady in "El-Oskof" estate, expressed great sadness for what happened to the Coptic citizens. He added that some Copts bought land and had the misfortune of the church being close to them, prompting suspisions that this land belongs to the church, despite the fact that the Church of the Virgin was built in 1902, is surrounded by a brick fence, and together with its yard have an area of half an acre, which means that they are not in need of new ground.
He pointed out that what he saw on the previous day was beyond all imagination; more than 16 central security cars, armoured vehicles and the assistant director of security arrived, targeting only the land of those three Copts. What was surprising, he added, was that despite the presence the many houses and palaces amid the agricultural land, owned by Muslims, no one approaches them.
He also wondered about the firing of more than 12 tear gas shells towards the Copts and the assaults carried out against the poor women leading to wounding some of them. The incident almost turned into a disaster after the Muslims came out from the neighboring villages of Mansheya and Aharadhanh, and began attacking Copts, were it not for a vigilant Copt who prevented it by informing the police forces, which intercepted, however, without arresting any of them.
He asks why the targeting of Copts in particular, although there is a court case still pending? and why are they not targeting homes and palaces built on agricultural land, which are conspicuous and could to be seen by anyone arriving`to the estate, while the Copts’ land is obscure and surrounded by houses, a street and the Church on the other side.
Reverend Beyman, at the Alkosiah Bishopric expressed his dissatisfaction with these arbitrary security measures, targeting ordinary Copts and their property, and not others, although there are many houses built amid the crops, which are contrary to regulations.
He pointed out that these Copts began to build following the legal procedures, and there is a court case still pending. In addition, although the prosecution has released last evening all the Copts who have been arrested, however, they are still held in custody at the Alkosiah Investigations Department.
He is appealing to all human rights organizations to investigate this incident and to give to those simple Copts their rights back.
This artcilce was translated into English by Voice of the Copts.