A Damanhour criminal court has issued preliminary death sentences to two monks including one who was defrocked for the murder of the head of their desert monastery last summer.
The court referred the sentences handed to two monks, Isaiah El-Maqary and Faltaous El-Makary, to the country’s grand mufti for his non-binding opinion, as required by Egyptian law.
The court designated a session on 24 April to pronounce final sentences on the two men.
The murder of Bishop Epiphanius sparked outrage in Coptic circles and led to serious measures by the Coptic Orthodox Church to contain the situation.
On 29 July, the 64-year-old abbot was found dead under suspicious circumstances. He had led Abu Maqar monastery in Wadi El-Natroun, northwest of Cairo.
The prosecution charged the two men with premeditated murder.
According to the prosecution, the two men ambushed the bishop on his way from his residence to the monastery chapel, where Isaiah, now referred to by his non-monastic name Wael Saad Tawadros, hit him on the head with a steel bar.
Following the murder, the church imposed new measures to regulate monastic life.
They include a freeze on accepting new monks, a ban on monks’ use of social media, a ban on building non-sanctioned places of worship, and a ban on monks leaving monasteries without official permission.