A press release from the U.S. Copts Association:
IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Christine Tadros
Washington DC (5/2/04) – In the early morning hours of Sunday, May 2nd, Egyptian police forces in El Minia, Egypt arrested a Coptic priest and four other Copts. After loading the Copts onto a police truck, Egyptian police drove the speeding vehicle into a water canal, killing three of the Christian men, including the priest.
Police arrested Father Ibrahim Mikhaeil, priest of the St. Mena Church in the village of Taha el Omodeen, and four lay Copts under charges of unlawful construction of a church fence. Once police had bound the hands of the men and loaded them into the police van, the vehicle was driven towards the Ibrahimiya Canal. The police officer drove the car towards the brink of the canal, and jumped out of the moving vehicle as it approached the waters. Father Mikhaeil, Mahrous, and Nasef were killed. The two other Copts remain hospitalized in critical condition.
Copts in the village of Taha el Omodeen have been in uproar since news of the killings has emerged. Maltreatment of Copts by local police is not uncommon; and police officers have repeatedly assaulted Coptic communities.
Recent reports have also shown that Coptic churches in El Minia have had renewed difficulties in obtaining permits for the reconstruction and renovation of their churches. “Local police officials have over and over again shown themselves to be antagonistic towards the local Coptic communities,” state Michael Meunier, president of the U.S. Copts Association. “The killing of this priest and his laymen marks yet another sign of official injustice perpetrated against the Coptic community,” he continued.
The U.S. Copts Association, founded in 1996 and based in Washington D.C., advocates for democracy, religious freedom, and human rights in Egypt. The Association represents over 700,000 Egyptian Christians in the United States.