(AINA) -- On October 4 thousands of Copts staged a peaceful rally to protest the September 30 torching by Muslims of St. George's Church in Elmarinab, Edfu, Aswan province. They marched through the streets of Cairo, passing by the High Court and ending outside the state TV building in Maspero, where they intended to stage an open-ended sit-in, as announced by the Maspero Coptic Youth Union and Copts without Barriers, which organized the rally.
After a couple of hours, the military and police, together with Central Security personnel brutally forced the eviction of the protesters. The forces fired gunshots in the air to terrorize the protesters, who were beaten with batons. A priest, Father Mattias Nasr, was pushed to the ground and beaten. Mobile phones and cameras were confiscated from anyone trying to take photos of the assault.
Video footage taken from the balcony of a nearby building surfaced later on youtube, it showed the military and police beating 28-year-old Copt Raef Anwar Fahim, who had the misfortune to stumble while fleeing and was left behind by his colleagues who were being chased by the police in the surrounding streets.
"I was the last one behind, a policeman hit me with a baton on the shoulder and I fell," he said. "They were firing live ammunition. In a manner of seconds over 15 policemen attacked me."
The video shown by most media in Egypt. The clip showed 15-20 officers and policemen beating, dragging, kicking and swearing at Raef. They were shouting anti-Christian slogans and curses at him, such as "You infidel, son of a bitch."
"I could feel their anger. They beat me like I was an enemy, as if I was an Israeli soldier," Raef told The Way Christian TV.
Father Filopateer Gamil, one of the organizers of the rally, said "having lost consciousness because of the beating, the police thought Raef was dead, so they left him in the street." He was later found and transported by some Coptic youths to the Coptic Hospital.
He had thirty stitches in his head, a broken arm and lacerations caused from being dragged along the streets.
It was reported that an officer in civilian clothes named Mohamad Ismail led the beating campaign against Raef.
"The video is a clear depiction of the brutality and religious intolerance, not to say deep hatred by the forces against a peaceful unarmed Christian demonstrator," commented activist and writer Nabil Abdelfattah.
Dr. Naguib Gabriel, head of The Egypian Union of Human Rights Organization, will file a court case against the Prime Minister, the Interior Minister and those in charge of the military police, on charges of torturing Raef, "whose only crime was that he was a Coptic young man peacefully protesting the torching of his church."
Father Mattias Nasr, who was also beaten, has filed a complaint against Major El-Tamaty, assistant to the chief of the military police, who had witnessed the assault on the priest.
Attorney Karam Gabriel filed a complaint with the Prosecutor General against Field Marshall Tantawi as Minister of Defense and the Minister of Interior, accusing them of willful torture of an Egyptian Christian citizen. He also demanded the involved officers to stand trial before a military court.
A million-man rally is planned for tomorrow by Copts and supporting parties.
Raef has vowed to be present at the rally, whatever the consequences.
By Mary Abdelmassih