Copts stage protest over missing priest’s wife

Hundreds of Coptic Christians from the Minya Governorate demonstrated on Thursday at the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Abbisiya to demand that authorities intensify investigations into the unexplained disappearance of Camelia Shahata Zakher.

Zakher, the 25-year-old wife of Minya priest Thaddeus Simon Rizq, was last seen on Sunday evening.

The protest began at dawn after ten busloads of Copts arrived from Minya. Demonstrators demanded that President Hosni Mubarak and Interior Minister Habib el-Adli personally intervene to step up search efforts for Zakher.

Rizq has accused Mohamed Salah, a resident of the village of Nazla Said in Minya, of kidnapping his wife. The priest said he had found two numbers belonging to Salah on his wife’s mobile phone.

“We will protest at the cathedral until police determine the circumstances of her disappearance,” Rizq stated.

According to Amgad Hamza, a Coptic leader from Minya, “Police delayed the Cairo-bound bus caravan carrying demonstrators for hours before a high-ranking security official intervened and ordered police to allow the buses to pass.”

A police officer who preferred to remain unidentified said that State Security was stepping up efforts to determine the circumstances of Zakher’s disappearance. He noted that certain individuals were currently being questioned about their respective roles in the affair.

Rizq claims that his wife, an elementary school teacher, disappeared after informing him by telephone that she was going to visit her mother who lives next door.

A number of residents in the area have claimed that Rizq regularly beat his wife, however, which prompted her to flee.

According to police sources, Zakher left home following a dispute with her husband after withdrawing money and belongings from the local post office. She had also reportedly applied for a 15-day vacation from work.

The same sources noted that Zackher had left her child with her husband.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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