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The BBC's Heba Saleh
"Many copts perceive the insult as too grave"
 real 28k

Sunday, 24 June, 2001, 13:05 GMT 14:05 UK
Egyptian editor on trial for obscenity
Coptic demonstrators
Copts have staged angry protests over the scandal
By Heba Sabeh in Cairo

A newspaper editor accused of publishing obscene pictures of a former Coptic monk having sex with a woman has gone on trial in Egypt.

The editor of al-Nabaa, Mamdouh Mahran, is also charged with spreading seditious information which represents a threat to public order.

Mr Mahran did not appear in the Cairo court himself, but his lawyers said he had not intended to insult Egypt's Coptic Christian minority.

Coptic protesters
Angry crowds awaited Mr Mahran's arrival at the court
Thousands of Coptic Christians had staged demonstrations in front of the Coptic cathedral in Cairo to protest against the newspaper.

His paper, which specialises in sex and scandals, had outraged Copts last week with its story about the exploits of a former monk.

He is alleged to have had sexual relations with women, then blackmailed them with videos of the encounters.

The paper splashed naked pictures of a bearded man in bed with a woman under headlines which screamed that one of Egypt's most venerated monasteries had turned into a brothel.

Monk defrocked

It failed to mention that the monk had been defrocked five years ago. The Coptic Church says the incidents described could not have taken place in the monastery.

Egyptian Coptic Pope Shenouda III
Pope Shenouda III has appealed for calm
It has also expressed relief at the measures taken by the state against the editor and his newspaper, which now faces closure.

But in this deeply religious country where relations between the two communities are often sensitive, many Copts perceive the insult as too grave.

Some complain that despite the widespread condemnation of the newspaper, they are still being mocked by neighbours and colleagues.

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See also:

21 Jun 01 | Middle East
Dozens hurt in Egypt Copt protest
22 Mar 01 | Middle East
Egyptian religious rights investigated
22 Feb 00 | Background
Egypt's fragile Coptic community
04 Jan 00 | Middle East
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