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Egypt Drops Blasphemy Charges Against Coptic Christian Boys
By Joseph Mayton

CAIRO -- Two Coptic Christians boys in Egypt, who spurred massive attention after they were detained by police after being accused of desecrating Islam's holy book, the Qur'an, will not be charged with blasphemy, a lawyer for the boys said on Wednesday.

"The case has been closed … and today we knew that the charges were dropped and the children were released after a deal was reached between Muslims, Christians and security officials in the area," said Gamal Eid, a human rights activist and part of the team of lawyers defending the boys, in comments published by Reuters news agency.

Nabil Rizk, 10, and Mina al-Farag, 9, had been taken from their parents and arrested after a Muslim man accused the two youngsters of desecrating the holy Qur'an in a small village in Bani Sweif in the Nile Delta region.

They faced a prosecutor, and were expected to be charged with blasphemy. The two boys were released from their juvenile detention on October 4 after spending days away from their families.

The children had been facing an investigation for allegedly urinating on the holy book and putting it next to a mosque, al-Shorouk newspaper reported.

Rizk's father, Nabil, said his child cannot read and write and had been looking in the trash "for anything useful" when he found a small bag with pages from the Qur'an so he took them and placed it next to a mosque as he did not know what to do with it.

A meeting had taken place in the village in an effort to solve the crisis after the children were accused, but to the surprise of the villagers, children have been transferred to the junior holding facility pending investigation.

Heavy security has taken over the small Nile Delta village, which is home to 157 Christian families after fears of a confrontation between the residents arose.

According to Copts United, a Christian news organization and website, the families of the two boys had been urging rights groups and organizations to help them free the children and to "have mercy" on them.

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