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EGYPT: Coptic Christian sit-in officially ends

May 21, 2011 |  7:58 am


Egyptian Christians have officially ended a sit-in in the capital nearly two weeks after they took to the streets to protest sectarian violence, according to Egyptian state television and Coptic leaders.

The decision to end the protest came after the country's military leaders promised to meet some of the protesters' demands.

Orthodox priest Father Metyas Nasr announced late Friday that he had agreed to a government offer to free five Christian men detained Thursday after clashes outside a church in the eastern Cairo suburb of Ain Shams.

Tensions have increased in recent weeks between Muslims and Christians, who account for about 10% of Egypt's 80 million people.

Authorities were expected to meet Saturday with Christian and Muslim clergy to discuss the fate of two Coptic churches that had been closed in Ain Shams, according to the state news agency.

Some protesters immediately agreed to leave the sit-in late Friday while others vowed to stay, saying they would leave only when authorities guaranteed equality for Christians, the reopening of all closed Coptic churches and fair trials for suspects in previous church attacks.

As of Saturday, local Egyptian media reported dozens of protesters remained in front of the state television building near downtown, but most had left and the streets had been reopened to traffic.

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske and Mayy el Sheikh in Cairo

Photo: Egyptians remove tents from the site of a protest in support of Coptic Christians in front of the state television building near downtown Cairo Thursday as protesters prepared to leave. The nearly two-week protest officially ended Friday after leaders said the military government had agreed to meet some of their demands. Credit: Khaled Elfiqi / EPA