11/07/2011, 00.00
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Army accused of Copts’ massacre threatens 34 Copts with trial

The detainees, who include teens under 16, are accused of attacking security forces during Coptic demonstration on 9 October. Spokesman for Egyptian Catholic Church calls the army’s move absurd because they will effectively judge their own actions. The military continues to deny responsibility for the 27 dead and more than 200 wounded.
Cairo (AsiaNews) – The same army that slaughtered 28 Christians on 9 October and is currently investigating itself has decided not to release 34 Copts held since the clashes, including teens under 16 and some who were wounded. Others have been held since 30 October. All are underfed and without proper medical care.

For Fr Rafic Greiche, spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Church, any trial would be absurd. “The military cannot court-martial civilians, especially since they are a party in the case.”

The clergyman hopes that with the elections on 26 November, the military will give up power and accept the voters’ verdict.

Some Muslims were also arrested following the deadly demonstrations. Laila Soueif, university professor and mother of activist Alaa Abd El Fattah, decided to go on a hunger strike this Sunday to protest her son's detention.

In a blogpost he smuggled out of prison on Thursday, El Fattah wrote that he got a proposition from his interrogators to be released provided he does not criticise Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawy, head of the military council.

"It was a small concession that I rejected. How can I face my family if I had accepted it," he wrote.

On 9 October, thousands of Copts demonstrated in front of the Maspero state TV building, demanding justice in the case of a church burning in Aswan Province (Upper Egypt).

At the rally, unknown gunmen began shooting soon after the start, causing the military to react. Some eyewitnesses said they saw soldiers deliberately fire on demonstrators and crush some with armed vehicles. The final toll included 27 people dead and more than 200 wounded.

The Egyptian Armed Forces continue to deny any responsibility for the incident, blaming extremist groups for infiltrating the demonstration. They also accuse protest leaders of inciting the crowd against security forces.
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