An Egyptian Christian Copt touches the image of Jesus Christ during Sunday mass in Cairo, in September 2012
An Egyptian Christian Copt touches the image of Jesus Christ during Sunday mass in Cairo, in September 2012. Egypt's prosecutor general ruled on Thursday that the Christian Coptic church is the rightful owner of a disputed plot of land that Muslim extremists had occupied, a judicial source said. © Maher Iskandar - AFP/File
An Egyptian Christian Copt touches the image of Jesus Christ during Sunday mass in Cairo, in September 2012
AFP
Last updated: November 8, 2012

Egyptian Salafists ordered off Coptic church land

Egypt's prosecutor general ruled on Thursday that the Christian Coptic church is the rightful owner of a disputed plot of land that Muslim extremists had occupied, a judicial source said.

Prosecutor Abdel Magid Mahmud also ordered that legal measures be taken to stop the radical Salafists from building a mosque on the land located north of Cairo.

"The Banha prosecution wrapped up its investigation late Wednesday night and instructed police to guard the plot of land and prevent trespassers," the source said.

"Investigations by the prosecution and the police ruled that the church is the rightful owner of the (disputed) land," the source added.

A Coptic church official told AFP Salafists had occupied and held prayers on the church-owned land and threatened to burn Coptic shops if they are blocked from praying there on Friday.

"A group of Salafists entered land belonging to the diocese (of Shobra el-Kheima) on Monday at 10:00 pm and stayed till the next day's afternoon prayers. They put up a banner saying 'Abdel Rahman mosque'," Bishop Morcos said on Wednesday.

He said the Salafists, who follow an ultra-conservative tradition of Sunni Islam, threatened to torch Coptic shops if they were prevented from using the land for Friday's weekly Muslim prayers.

Morcos said the church wants to build on the land as soon as the permits are granted, and that a complaint had been filed with police and the state prosecutor.

Copts, who make up between six and 10 percent of Egypt's 83 million people, have suffered an increase in attacks since a popular uprising ousted Hosni Mubarak in early 2011, leading to months of insecurity.

Many of the Christians opposed the election in June of President Mohamed Morsi, an Islamist whose Muslim Brotherhood movement wants to gradually turn Egypt into an Islamist state.

Morsi himself has assured Copts of equal rights.

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