Egypt's top appeals court upholds death sentence, commutes another against two monks over bishop's murder

El-Sayed Gamal El-Din , Wednesday 1 Jul 2020

File Photo: The late Bishop Epiphanius, the head of Abu Makar (Saint Macarius the Great) (Photo: The Coptic Orthodox Church Official FB page)

Egypt's top appeals court upheld on Wednesday a death sentence against one monk and decided to commute a sentence against another to life imprisonment over the killing of a bishop at a monastery in 2018, a judicial source said.

The two monks, Wael Saad Tawadros and Ramon Rasmy Mansour, were sentenced to death by a lower criminal court in April 2019 over the killing of 64-year-old Bishop Epiphanius at the desert Saint Macarius Monastery in Wadi El-Natroun, northwest of Cairo. The sentences followed a review by the country’s grand mufti for his non-binding opinion, as required by Egyptian law.

On Wednesday, the Court of Cassation upheld the death sentence against Tawadros, whose monastic name is Isaiah El-Maqary, and reduced the sentence against Mansour, known as Faltaous El-Makary, to life in jail -- which is 25 years in Egypt.

The two defrocked monks were convicted of premeditated murder.

Investigations showed that the two men ambushed the bishop on his way from his residence to the monastery chapel, where Tawadros hit him on the head with a steel bar, while Mansour stood guard, prosecutors previously said.

Wednesday's sentences are final and cannot be appealed.

The murder of Bishop Epiphanius sparked outrage among the Coptic Christian community and led the introduction of strict measures by the Coptic Orthodox Church to regulate monastic life.

These included a freeze on accepting new monks, a ban on monks’ use of social media, a ban on building non-sanctioned places of worship, and barring monks from leaving monasteries without official permission. 

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