April 25, 2011 / 2:25 PM / in 8 years

Egypt makes concession to anti-governor protesters

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt’s military-led government tried to quell more than a week of protests against the new governor of a southern province on Monday by saying he would not take up his duties for three months.

Egyptian protesters stand on an army truck that was burnt by protesters early on Saturday in Tahrir Square, Cairo April 9, 2011. The characters on the signs read "If the 25th of January revolution was our choice, then confronting the Higher Military Council is our decision and Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, Chairman of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is the star of the sequel to the movie "corruption". REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

Sate media reported the activities of Emad Mikhail, a Christian and former police officer who was appointed as governor of Qena province this month, would be “frozen for three months.”

State television said Mikhail’s deputy would run the governorate in the meantime, adding that the protesters had accepted this compromise solution and were disbanding.

But a journalist in Qena said about 1,000 people were still protesting and said they would continue until the governor was removed.

Thousands of Egyptians had demanded Mikhail be sacked because he had served in the police force of former President Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in February by a popular uprising partly ignited by police brutality.

Similar protests have erupted in two other provinces whose new governors had also served in the police.

The protests against Mikhail, one of two Christian governors appointed by the military generals who now rule Egypt, are a sign of how willing Egyptians are to flex their new-found political muscle after Mubarak’s ouster.

Some protesters, especially Islamists who have become more vocal since Mubarak was deposed, had said they did not want a Christian governor, raising sectarian fears in a province with a large Coptic Christian population.

Christian make up around 10 percent of Egypt’s 80 million people. Many live in the south, and Qena has seen its share of sectarian violence.

In one high-profile case, Muslims killed six Coptic Christians in a drive-by shooting last year on Coptic Christmas Eve, in retaliation for the alleged rape of a Muslim girl.

Reporting by Yasmine Saleh, editing by Miral Fahmy and Mark Trevelyan

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