Christian cleric’s killer sentenced to death

Cairo: An Egyptian court on Monday sentenced a Muslim man to death by hanging after convicting him of murdering a Coptic Christian cleric last October.

The Cairo Criminal Court issued the sentence against Ahmad Saeed, a suspected militant, after the verdict was approved by the country’s top Islamic official, the Grand Mufti — a routine procedure in Egypt in cases involving the death penalty.

The ruling can be appealed.

On October 12, the convict was arrested after he fatally stabbed Coptic priest Samaan Shehata in the Cairo suburb of Al Salam City.

Saeed attacked the cleric with a long knife as the latter was leaving his car, witnesses said. He also injured another Coptic clergyman, who was accompanying the victim.

Footage of a surveillance camera in a nearby store showed the suspect chasing Shehata as he was attempting to escape and stabbed him in the stomach and the head.

The 40-year-old victim was a priest at a Coptic church in Egypt’s southern province of Beni Suef. He was in Cairo raising donations for the church when he was assaulted.

In May last year, 28 people were killed in an attack, claimed by Daesh, on a bus transporting Coptic Christians to a monastery in the southern province of Minya.

A month earlier, 47 people were killed in suicide attacks, also claimed by Daesh, on two churches in the coastal city of Alexandria and the Delta province of Tanta.

The attacks prompted Egypt to declare a nationwide state of emergency that is still in effect.

Christians are among staunch supporters of Egypt’s President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi, who is pursuing a relentless campaign against radical Islamists.

Christians make up around 10 per cent of Egypt’s population of nearly 95 million.


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