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Egypt’s top court has upheld a death sentence against a monk convicted of murdering a bishop. Picture for illustrative purpose. Image Credit: iStockphoto

Cairo: Egypt’s top court has upheld a death sentence against a defrocked monk convicted of murdering a bishop nearly two years ago, legal sources said.

Last year, the Cairo Criminal Court sentenced monks Wael Saad and Ramon Rasmy for killing bishop Epiphanius in a monastery, north west of the Egyptian capital.

Both convicts contested the rulings at the Court of Cassation, Egypt’s top appeals tribunal, which Wednesday confirmed the death sentence against Saad and commuted the penalty against Rasmy to imprisonment for life, which is 25 years under Egyptian law. The rulings are final.

The 64-year-old bishop was found dead with a head injury inside the monastery in July 2018, sending shockwaves across Egypt, mainly among the country’s Coptic Christian minority.

After arrests, the two monks admitted to the murder due to unspecified “differences” with the bishop, the Egyptian media reported at the time, citing prosecutors.

Investigations revealed that the prime defendant Saad had bludgeoned the cleric to death with an iron pipe while the second accomplice kept an eye on the road during the murder.

Coptic Pope Tawadros II called the murder a criminal act. Over 400 workers and monks in the monastery were questioned over the murder, the top cleric added at the time.

In the aftermath, the Coptic Church introduced strict controls on the monastic life, including a ban on monks’ access to social media.

Egypt’s Copts are the Middle East’s largest Christian community.