Seventy People Hurt in Cairo Clashes Between Copts, Police
Forty police officers and thirty demonstrators were slightly hurt Wednesday night in clashes during a protest by young members of Egypt's Coptic Christian minority outside the Coptic cathedral in Cairo, police said, cited by AFP.
Coptic youth have been protesting since Sunday over the newspaper's graphic story about a defrocked monk's alleged sexual affairs in a monastery.
The demonstration, involving around 10,000 demonstrators, began in the early evening, lasted until 11:00 pm (2000 GMT) as youths and police clashed in the streets around the cathedral, an AFP correspondent witnessed.
The youths were angered by newspaper stories showing front page pictures of a bearded man, said to be a monk of the Al Mosharraq monastery in Asyut, southern Egypt, in compromising positions with a naked woman under the headline Monastery Turned into Brothel.
The church had announced on Monday, a day after the articles were published, that the man in question had been expelled from the monastery five years ago because he had "abandoned the traditions of the church and of monasticism."
The young people assembled at the cathedral for a weekly meeting with Coptic Pope Shenuda III, witnesses said.
Once there, they learned that the meeting had been cancelled, and they blamed the police for the cancellation.
A number of them climbed on to the roof of the cathedral and began throwing stones at police, who threw stones back at them, as well as using truncheons and water cannon to disperse them, the witnesses added.
The secretary of Coptic Pope Shenuda III, Bishop Yuannas, intervened and begged the young people to return to their homes, the witnesses said.
Mamduh Mahran, editor-in-chief of both the Al Nabaa weekly and Akher Khabar daily newspapers, is to go on trial Sunday over publication of the articles.
The state security misdemeanors court will try Mahran for disturbing the peace, publishing scandalous pictures and subject matter which led to the humiliation of a religious group and lit "the fires of civil strife."
Mahran is also charged with publishing information about a case under investigation, that of the monk, and could face as much as 24 years in jail.
The editor has proclaimed his innocence, saying he ran the articles in order "to alert the church and its religious leaders to what was happening especially as Christianity and Islam stand side by side," a prosecution source quoted him as saying.
Egypt's Higher Press Council, meanwhile, decided Tuesday evening to file a suit with the administrative court demanding the cancellation of the two newspapers' permits, the government Al Ahram newspaper reported.
Pope Shenuda has also filed a libel suit against Mahran for the stories, which have heightened tensions between Egypt's small Christian population and its Muslim majority.
Pope Shnouda attacked sensationalism in the press on Tuesday, while expressing “pride” at the press association and government's stance on a crisis that erupted over the tabloid story.
Al Ahram Arabic daily said the pope’s remarks came at a meeting with the press association’s council in Alexandria.
The pope praised the association for “taking all the measures allowed by its by-laws to punish the editors” of Al Nabaa weekly and its daily sister publication Akher Khabar.
For his part, the head of the press association, Ibrahim Nafe', said that the investigations proved the guilt of Al Nabaa’s editor, and that his union membership had been suspended.
Meanwhile, the state prosecutor released Mahran on an EP10,000 bail, a decision the pope described as “within the law.”
On Tuesday, however, BBC Online reported that the Egyptian state news agency MENA had retracted a statement saying the government had closed down the newspaper.
In what correspondents say is an unprecedented retraction, the agency said the report, which had directly quoted the Egyptian Prime Minister Atef Ebeid, was wrong and based on a misunderstanding of Ebeid's statement – Albawaba.com
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