Wien, 10. October 2011 Press release

Spindelegger demands full and complete investigation of the escalation of violence against Copts

Foreign Minister on the violent excesses during a demonstration of Coptic Christians in Egypt

Vienna, 10 October 2011 – “The scale of violence during yesterday’s demonstration of Coptic Christians in Cairo, in which over 24 people were killed, is appalling and a matter of deepest concern. Our thoughts go out to the relatives of the dead and to the over 200 injured people”, Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said commenting on the violent riots in the centre of Cairo on Sunday night.

“I call on the Egyptian government to fully investigate and explain the circumstances leading to this escalation on Sunday night and to bring those responsible to justice. The Egyptian leadership must take seriously the justified demands of the population and in particular of the religious minorities in the country. This is absolutely essential in the context of the development of a modern democratic state with the rule of law and the political consolidation process with the first free parliamentary elections due in November”, Spindelegger said.

The Egyptian ambassador was summoned to the Austrian Foreign Ministry at the wish of the Foreign Minister to explain the highly alarming developments. “The deeper causes of the tensions that are emerging once more must be analysed. Only then will there be a chance that events of this kind are not repeated. Everything possible must be done to protect religious minorities from oppression and violence and to use the newly won freedom as an opportunity for a peaceful coexistence beyond all political, ethnic and religious boundaries. This includes respect for other faiths, tolerance and freedom of worship”, the Foreign Minister said.

With more than eight million Christians – most of them members of the Coptic Orthodox Church – Egypt is the country with the largest Christian population in the Middle East. In the past they have been the repeated targets of violence, the last of these was in March when 13 people were killed in Cairo. The cause then as now, was arson in a Coptic church.

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