Court sentences priest over church construction

A court in the Upper Egyptian city of Edfu sentenced Father Macarius of the Marinab Church in Aswan Governorate to six months in prison and an LE300 fine, saying that the priest was in breach of the law.

The priest was accused by the court of illegally doing construction on the church last September, but angry Muslim crowds halted the construction. The incident came weeks after several churches were attacked in a working class district in Giza, Imbaba.

The court said that Father Macarius is responsible for building a steeple taller than the one mentioned in the license of construction. He can appeal the ruling.

Such incidents have pushed the Coptic community, which make up about 10 percent of Egypt's 80 million people, to protest what they called the lenient approach of Egypt’s military rulers in confronting the rising sectarian violence against them. Many have called for repealing heavy Mubarak-era restrictions on building or renovating churches.

Last October, 27 protesters were killed during a mostly-Coptic march in Cairo to protest church demolitions, building restrictions, and discrimination against Copts. One soldier was also killed.

Antoine Adil of the Maspero Youth Coalition told independently owned Youm7 that Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi should be blamed for the clashes.

Adil added that Tantawi ordered the construction of the church but Aswan Governorate could not continue construction because of ultra-conservative Salafi Muslims.

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