6. Dutch TV: Copts set Mārīnāb ablaze and framed Muslims

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The building that sparked acts of violence in Maspero was not a church but rather a guesthouse or a big house for meeting which had been set ablaze by Copts and framed Muslims of the act, revealed a report by Lex Runderkamp and published by the Dutch broadcasting station NOS.

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The NOS quoted Runderkamp as expressing amazement that Copts would set up such a large building for only a few of them in the village, not more than 30.

The correspondent, through interviews he had with the local Coptic villagers, concluded that Christians have set the building on fire with old car tires and later blamed it on their Muslim brothers, who gathered around the fire after it has already erupted.

Runderkamp noted at the end of his report that the impression taken by the world on the incidents was entirely wrong because fact acquit Muslims from any involvement in the burning of the church.

The report drew back discontent by Coptic groups in the West, joined by politicians and members of parliament from the Dutch Christian Party. Press sources said they embarked on practicing pressures on the Dutch TV correspondent.

The Nederlandse Koptische Stichting protested the report as leading member Ashraf Hannā said the report was "a big shock" to see a key Dutch broadcaster like NOS sending a correspondent to Aswan to come up with a report that is biased in favor of a side against another side.

According to Hannā, the information offered as facts in the journalist's report was incorrect.

The Nederlandse Koptische Stichting, in an attempt to clarify a few things, has sent a number of documents it received from the Coptic church to the senior editor of the NOS.

These papers allege that construction works on the church came upon a permit from the governor of Aswan and that the church had been built in the 1940s and prayers began inside it in the 1960s.

The Nederlandse Koptische Stichting was not the only organization that rejected the report which also drew opposition from the Dutch Christian Party, which in turn enquired the NOS about details.

In statements carried by the NOS website, Joel Voordewind from the Christian Party said he was shocked by the report which he termed as "weak and not supported by facts".

The Dutch parliamentarian, who has just returned from a trip to monitor Egyptian elections, presented a question in this regard to Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Uriel "Uri" Rosenthal.

Voordewind said the report broadcasted by the Dutch TV was totally different from the conditions of Copts in Egypt, sending a message to the Dutch station asking the correspondent about the reasons why he concluded that it was Copts who burned the church.

At the end of a report prepared on this issue, the NOS wondered whether it was proper for a journalist to relay a sensitive report on the national station in a time the matter is pending investigation by the Egyptian authorities.

Runderkamp's report was in agreement with the findings of the Egyptian State Lawsuits Authority.

Al-Mārīnāb is originally a house that is owned by citizen Mu'awad Yūsuf Mu'awad but Copts, with the help of some employees in the local council in Idfū, sought turning the house into a church using permits and approvals issued to rejuvenate another church, the Khūr al-Zaq Church in Idfū.

The Egyptian State Lawsuits Authority is an Egyptian judicial institution that resembles, in respect of competencies, the Attorney General in common law disciplines and particularly the United States Solicitor General.

The Egyptian State Lawsuits Authority had been established in 1874 prior to the establishment of the Egyptian national courts in 1883.

[Link for the original report in Dutch]

Please read AWR Editor-in-Chief Cornelis Hulsman commentary

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