A file photo of slain Coptic priest Simon Shehata. (Courtesy of the Coptic Church)

Cairo: An Egyptian court on Saturday began a trial of a suspected Muslim militant charged with murdering a Christian cleric last month in Cairo.

The defendant, identified as Ahmad Saeed, was accused of stabbing priest Simon Shehata with a knife as the clergyman was leaving his car in the suburban Cairo area of Al Salam. Footage of a surveillance camera in a nearby store showed the suspect chasing the cleric as he tried to escape and fatally stabbing him in the stomach and the head.

The suspect was later arrested. He confessed to the attack, but provided no motive.

Following a brief procedural session on Saturday, the Cairo Criminal Court postponed the trial until Wednesday, legal sources said.

The defendant did not show up at the trial, prompting its adjournment, the sources added.

The 40-year-old victim was a priest at a Coptic church in Egypt’s southern province of Beni Sueif. He was in Cairo raising donations for the church when he was attacked on October 12, friends said.

The Coptic Church mourned the slain cleric, calling him a “martyr” and described the attack as a “regrettable incident”.

Muslim extremists have in recent months targeted Egypt’s Christian minority with a series of deadly attacks.

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

In April, 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.

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