Egyptian Christians detained by police-rights group

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CAIRO, Nov 11 (Reuters) Egyptian police detained three members of a Christian rights group, including its spokesman and lawyer, the organisation's president said.

In pre-dawn raids police entered the Cairo homes of Wagih Yakob, 45, spokesman for the Middle East Christian Association, and another member of the group, detaining both, said Nader Fawzy, president of the Toronto, Canada-based group.

Later in the day they detained Mamdouh Azmy, the group's lawyer, from his office in Alexandria, Fawzy said yesterday.

''They haven't done anything at all,'' Fawzy said. ''The government is trying to stop us from working in Egypt.'' Police confiscated the computers and mobile phones of the two men detained in Cairo, said Fawzy, whose organisation has a mission statement calling for secularism, and equality with full citizenship for Christians living in the West Asia.

A spokesman for Egypt's Interior Ministry said he had no information about the detentions.

Police held two other members of the group in August who had helped a man convert to Christianity from Islam. Both were released from prison earlier this week, Fawzy said.

Christians account for up to 10 per cent of Egypt's population, which is mostly Muslim.

Egyptian Christian groups have complained about an increase in arrests and harassment in recent months. A U.S. government report in September said Egypt had seen a marked decline in religious freedom and while Egypt's constitution provided for freedom of belief, the government restricted those rights.

Reuters SBA VP0540

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