Egyptian authorities on Sunday executed a Coptic Christian monk convicted over the 2018 killing of the abbot of an ancient desert monastery, the monk’s family told AFP.
“We were told at 8 am (0600 GMT) this morning that the execution took place in Damanhour prison and I am on my way to pick up the body,” said Hany Saad Tawadros, the monk’s brother.
Capital punishment for civilian convicts in Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country, is carried out by hanging.
An Egyptian court last year confirmed the death sentence for the monk Isaiah, whose original name is Wael Saad Tawadros, over the killing of Bishop Epiphanius.
Another monk convicted for his role in the crime was sentenced to life in prison.
“I didn’t even tell the rest of the family because I didn’t want them to be heartbroken. We thank God in any case,” Hany Tawadros said.
Security and judicial sources also confirmed the man’s execution to AFP.
The abbot of the Saint Macarius monastery in the plains of Wadi al-Natrun, northwest of the capital Cairo, was found with a bleeding head wound after being bludgeoned to death in July 2018, in a case that shocked the Middle East’s largest religious minority.
Coptic Christians make up about 10-15 percent of Egypt’s predominantly Sunni Muslim population of over 100 million, and the country’s vast deserts are home to some of Christianity’s oldest monasteries.
The church later defrocked the pair and placed a one-year moratorium on ordaining new monks.
Prosecutors said Wael Tawadros confessed to beating the cleric with a metal bar as the second monk kept watch.
Authorities blamed the killing on unspecified “differences” between the bishop and the two monks.
In video footage of court sessions shared on social media in recent years, a sobbing Tawadros, wearing white overalls, accused interrogators of stripping him naked and torturing him physically and psychologically.
Stop the Death Penalty Egypt, a local advocacy group calling for the end of capital punishment in the North African country, said Sunday that its pleas to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to revoke the verdict and pardon the monk had been ignored.
“The (monks’) trial was marred by discrepancies, violations and forced confessions taken under duress,” the group said in a statement on social media.
In April, Egypt executed at least nine people over the storming of a police station in 2013 in which 13 policemen were killed.
Amnesty International last month noted “a significant spike” in recorded executions in Egypt, which saw a more than threefold rise to 107 last year, from 32 in 2019.
“Egyptian authorities have displayed a ruthless determination to persist with their escalating use of the death penalty,” Amnesty said in a statement.
“It is extremely concerning that it (the death penalty) is used after unfair trials, with courts routinely relying on torture-tainted ‘confessions’,” it added.