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Thursday, 21 June, 2001, 06:35 GMT 07:35 UK
Dozens hurt in Egypt Copt protest
Coptic demonstrators
Copts say a newspaper editor insulted their religion
By Frank Gardner in Cairo

At least 70 people are reported to have been injured in clashes between police and thousands of young Coptic Christians in Cairo.

It was the fourth day of street protests by Egypt's Coptic Christians, triggered by a newspaper's publication of obscene pictures.

The demonstrators gathered on Wednesday night at Cairo's Abbasiya cathedral - a focal point for the sizeable Christian minority.

They are angry at reports that a man they claim has insulted their religion has been released on bail.

Graphic photographs

Mamdouh Mahran, editor of the Egyptian tabloid weekly Al-Nabaa, on Sunday shocked the country by publishing graphic photographs of a defrocked monk allegedly having sex with women in a fourth-century monastery.

Egyptian Coptic Pope Shenouda III
Pope Shenouda III appealed for calm

The paper said the former monk, Adel Gabriel, convinced women to have sex with him and then blackmailed them with videos of their liaisons.

Some women are reported to have handed over hundreds of thousands of dollars in ransom.

The head of Egypt's Coptic Church, Pope Shenouda III, has intervened to try to calm the situation. He has denied that the ex-monk had sex in the monastery, which Copts believe was visited by the Holy Family.

But Coptic anger is running high and as dozens of Egyptians recover in hospital after Wednesday's clashes, there are fears that this case could ignite religious violence between Copts and Muslims.

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See also:

22 Mar 01 | Middle East
Egyptian religious rights investigated
22 Feb 00 | Background
Egypt's fragile Coptic community
04 Jan 00 | Middle East
Funerals for victims of Egypt clashes
08 Jan 00 | Middle East
More arrests after Egypt clashes
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