Cairo – An Egyptian court has asked the country’s top mufti, Islam’s highest religious authority, to try a man accused of stabbing a Coptic Christian priest to death, the country’s chief justice announced on Wednesday.
Arsanias Wadid, a 56-year-old priest, was killed last month in a popular beach promenade in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria in an attack that shocked the most populous country in the Arab world.
The prosecution has demanded the death sentence of Nehru Tawfiq, 60, for intentionally killing a priest and illegally possessing a knife used in the attack.
Tawfiq’s trial began on Saturday in Alexandria’s criminal court. He appeared at the docks – in a caged part of the Egyptian courtroom – shouting “God is the greatest” in Arabic and trying to read verses from the Muslim holy book, the Qur’an, before ordering the judges. Keep quiet
In an attempt to get a lesser sentence, his lawyers argued that it was not an intentional homicide. The trial resumed on Wednesday, with the prosecution arguing in a live-streamed hearing in the local media.
Chief Justice Wahid Sabri said he was referring the case to the Grand Mufti for his opinion, although the judge could rule independently. The verdict is scheduled for June 11. It can be appealed to the high court.
The attack was the latest in a series of sectarian violence in Egypt. In recent years, Islamist extremists have repeatedly targeted Christians, especially after the military ousted the late Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in 2013, an elected but divided leader, amid widespread protests against his rule.
In September 2017, an alleged supporter of the militant Islamic State group stabbed an 82-year-old Christian doctor to death in Cairo. The following year he was sentenced to death.
The Egyptian Copts – the largest Christian community in the Middle East – have repeatedly accused discrimination against 10% of the country’s 103 million people and the Muslim majority.