GIZA: Public Prosecutor Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud ordered on Monday the release of 42 Copts held for rioting related charges during fatal clashes over church construction in Omraneya. He renewed the detention of 42 others for 15 days pending investigation.
The Omraneya People Solidarity Front, composed of 14 civil society groups, demonstrated on Monday morning in front of the Giza court, where the investigations were taking place.
Heavy security surrounded the 20 demonstrators as they demanded the release of the detainees, the prosecution of the security officers responsible for the injuries and deaths of Omraneya protesters, and the passage of unified legislation regarding the construction of prayer areas.
The demonstrators shouted slogans that condemned the Ministry of Interior for the Omraneya casualties, declaring that Muslims and Christians represent a united front in the quest for freedom.
Dozens of Copts were detained following violent clashes between the police and Christians last month in the Omraneya district after officials ordered the suspension of construction on the Virgin Mary and Archangel Michael Church due to a lack of proper licensing.
The clashes resulted in casualties on both sides of the conflict, including the deaths of two Christians. Protesting activists claimed on Monday that the police opened fire inside the church and on the protestors.
The detained Copts face various criminal charges, including vandalism of public property and the attempted murder of the assistant head of Giza security — one of several security officials injured during the clashes.
The Omraneya People Solidarity Front issued a statement earlier this month complaining that the detention of the Coptic protesters was random, and that women and children who did not take part in the clashes were among those detained.
The statement also condemned “the security intrusion in the course of the investigation,” as it stated that the lawyers of the detainees were harassed by security forces and were not allowed to be present during the investigations.
The statement also added that the injured detainees suffered “intentional medical negligence,” as they were transferred from the hospital to the jail without receiving treatment for their injuries.
“We call on the authorities to promptly stop the outrageous violations [committed] by the security forces, who are treating the detainees as if they [are] prisoners of war,” the statement added.