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EGYPT: Attorney general orders the detention of 156 protesters over church riots

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Cairo:  3,000 Orthodox Copts (Christians) hurled stones at police lines

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt's attorney general ordered the detention of 156 protesters involved in clashes with riot police after the authorities blocked construction of a church in a Cairo suburb, the official news agency MENA said on Thursday.

One Christian was killed and dozens were wounded in Giza on Wednesday when about 3,000 Orthodox Copts hurled stones at police lines. Some officers threw them back and Muslims also lobbed rocks at the Christian protesters from behind the security cordon.

The attorney general decided to hold the 156 protesters for 15 days on suspicion of inciting the riots, MENA reported. It did not say whether they had been formally charged.

Some Christians demonstrated near the church and others near the Giza governor's office on Wednesday. Christians make up 10 percent of Egypt's 79 million people.

The Interior Ministry said at least 112 protesters had been detained in the Giza area, where the authorities had halted construction of the church although the Copts said they had an official permit.

Thirty lawyers tried to attend police questioning of 120 of the protestors late on Wednesday but were blocked from entering the public prosecutor's office in Giza, a rights group said.

Five lawyers who later managed to enter the building were told by the general prosecutor that they could attend the questioning but could not consult privately with the accused, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights said in a statement.

"The prosecutors denied the lawyers' request to consult privately with the accused. They refused to put on record the lawyers' arguments questioning the validity of the proceedings and they also refused to put on record the injuries sustained by some of the accused," the group said.

Giza Governor Sayyed Abdel-Aziz said the Christians appeared to have misused a permit for a social center to build a church.

The Christians said they had the right permit and would continue to build the three-storey domed structure.

(Reporting by Sarah Mikhail, editing by David Stamp)


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