Egypt frees 2 Coptic boys held for Quran defiling

Associated Press Modified: October 4, 2012 at 4:32 pm •  Published: October 4, 2012
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When police officer came at night to take the boys, "we begged him to leave the kids. They can't spend night outside their home. The officer said he feared for their lives and he wanted to keep them with him."

He said a third of the villagers are Christian and the rest are Muslims.

"We visit each other, we are together in weddings, funerals and everything," he said. "We became a target. When anything happens outside, we bear the results."

Father Abdel-Qouddos Hana, deputy of Archbishop Estafanous with whom the boys' village is affiliated, believed that the over-reaction to the boys' action was related to the anti-Islam movie.

"I think this is all about the movie," he said. "We stood by our brothers here in their protests, but some people have bad souls," he said.

Security chief Gen. Attiya Mazrou in Beni Suef province south of Cairo said that authorities ordered the boys to be released after five days in detention, and they were taken to a police station to await their parents.

It was not immediately possible to reach the boys' family for comment.

Seventeen cases of alleged contempt of religion have been filed since the January 2011 uprising, including at least five in recent weeks, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights said.

The cases include a Christian teacher in the southern province of Assiut who received six years in prison for posting anti-Islam material on his Facebook page.

A female Coptic teacher in another southern town was also summoned for interrogation last week and detained for a night after her students accused her of speaking offensively about the Prophet Muhammad in class. The teacher was released from detention, but prosecutors are still investigating her, human rights activists said.

A Coptic Christian activist, Alber Saber, is facing trial for posting material on his Facebook page deemed offensive to religion. He was first detained after neighbors complained he had posted the anti-Islam film, but investigators didn't find it. Nonetheless, within days he was put on trial on charges of contempt of religion. His trial began last week.