Egypt orders retrial of monks sentenced to death for bishop's murder

In Summary

• Prosecutors said Saad, who had a history of differences with superiors.

A general view of the court where two monks were convicted on February 23, 2019.
A general view of the court where two monks were convicted on February 23, 2019.
Image: REUTERS

Egypt's highest civilian court on Wednesday ordered a retrial of two monks sentenced to death for murdering a bishop at a Coptic Christian monastery, two judicial sources said on Wednesday.

The 2018 killing of 64-year-old Bishop Epiphanius, at Saint Macarius Monastery in the desert, rattled Egyptian Coptics who make up about 10 percent of the predominantly Muslim population.

Wael Saad, known by his monastic name Isaiah al-Makari, and Ramon Rasmi Mansour, known as Faltaous al-Makari, were convicted by a criminal court last year. Both had pleaded innocent.

Prosecutors said Saad, who had a history of differences with superiors, struck the bishop three times in the back of the head with a steel pipe while Mansour stood guard outside.

But the judicial sources told Reuters the cassation court abolished the death sentence after an appeal from the monks and will hear the case itself next April. Its rulings are final.

At the first trial, prosecutors and witnesses said Saad had been investigated for breaking monastic rules, including by trying to buy and sell land. He was defrocked in 2018.

After the murder, both men tried unsuccessfully to commit suicide, Saad by poisoning himself and Mansour by jumping off the monastery roof.