An Egyptian criminal court on Saturday sentenced to death by hanging the defendant in the murder of Father Arsanios Wadeed Rizkallah, priest of the Church of the Virgin Mary in Karmouz.
Last month, the criminal court in Alexandria asked the country’s top mufti, the highest religious authority for Islam, to weigh in on the case of the defendant who is accused of stabbing to death the Coptic Christian priest.
A decision from Grand Mufi Shawky Allam on whether the suspect should be given the death penalty and executed is a non-binding opinion, but it significantly influences the court’s ruling.
During previous sessions, the court examined videos of surveillance cameras, which monitored the accused during his attack on the victim on the evening of 7 April as he was walking along the Mediterranean corniche in Alexandria’s Sidi Bishr District.
The priest’s killing had sparked widespread discontent in Egypt while security and judicial authorities began investigations.
The Coptic Orthodox Church said the victim was attacked with a sharp object in the neck.
Several Islamic institutions, including Egypt’s Al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed El-Tayyeb offered their condolences to Head of the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church Pope Tawadros and Christians over the murder of Arsanios Wadid.
Initially, the accused confessed to attacking Arsonios, but he later claimed that he was not conscious while committing the crime and that he suffered from mental disorders ten years ago that affect his actions.
Egypt’s Prosecutor General Hamada el Sawy had ordered jailing the accused pending investigations, along with placing him under medical observation in a public hospital specialized in the mental diseases.
But after listening to the testimonial of nearly 17 eyewitnesses of the incident and receiving the reports of the Forensic Medicine Authority and the Alexandria Poison Center regarding the anatomical characterization of the victim’s body, Egypt’s Prosecutor ordered referring the accused man to the criminal court for trial.