Trial starts for 2 men accused of killing 3 Egyptian monks at monastery in South Africa

Ahram Online , AP , Friday 15 Mar 2024

Two men accused of murdering three Egyptian Coptic monks earlier this week at a monastery in Cullinan, South Africa, appeared before a South African court on Thursday.

Two suspects appear at the Cullinan magistrate court on charges of killing three Egyptian monks belonging to the Coptic Orthodox Church in South Africa. AP


The first accused, Saeed Basanda, is identified as a 37-year-old Egyptian national, while the second accused, Samuel Avamarkos, is identified as a 47-year-old South African citizen, in the charge sheet, the Associated Press reported.

The case was postponed to 27 March for the two to get legal representation in Arabic, per their request. The two will remain in custody until their next court appearance.

The Egyptian monks were found dead on Tuesday at the Saint Mark the Apostle and Saint Samuel the Confessor Monastery, which belongs to Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church, in Cullinan, northeast of Pretoria.

The victims – Monk Hegumen Takla El-Samuely (deputy of the Coptic Diocese of South Africa), Monk Yostos Ava Markos, and Monk Mina Ava Markos – had stab wounds, according to the police.

A fourth person was also beaten with an iron rod before escaping to safety.

The motive of the attack remains unknown, and police say nothing valuable was stolen from the monastery.

On Tuesday, the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church stated that the monks were killed in a “criminal assault.”

Pope Tawadros II, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, said they were sent to follow up on the monastery's renovation, describing the incident as “painful.”

"May God console us all. There is no doubt that it is a painful incident, and we are thanking God in every situation," he said in his weekly sermon at St. George Church in Heliopolis on Wednesday.

The incident has brought reactions from Al-Azhar, the world’s leading Sunni Islamic institution located in Egypt, which denounced the incident as an act of terrorism.

“Attacking a safe person in a place of worship is a hateful terrorist act, and there can never be a justification for murder and terrorism,” a statement quoted Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed El-Tayyeb as saying.

El-Tayyeb offered condolences to the families of the victims.

The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Wednesday that it is closely following the investigation into the crime, extending its deepest condolences to the families of the victims.


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