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Egypt prosecutors charge two monks with murder of Coptic bishop

Bishop Epiphanius was head of the fourth-century St Macarius monastery [Getty]

Date of publication: 20 August, 2018

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Egyptian prosecutors have accused two monks of agreeing to kill a senior clergyman over unspecified "differences".

Two Coptic monks were charged with murder on Sunday in relation to the killing of a bishop at a desert monastery in Egypt.

Bishop Epiphanius, 68, the head of Saint Macarius monastery in Wadi el-Natrun, was found dead with a head wound in late July. The high-profile case has shocked Egypt's Coptic Christian community, who form around 10 percent of the country's population.

Prosecutors accuse monks Wael al-Saad and Remon Resmi of agreeing to kill the senior cleric over unspecified "differences", a statement from the attorney general's office said.

Saad reportedly confessed to lying in wait for the bishop as he headed for prayers before hitting him over the head with a metal pipe while Resmi watched on, the statement said.

Prosecutors referred the two monks to trial but no date has been set for the case to be heard.

After the killing, Saad, known by his ecclesiastical name Isaiah, was expelled from the Church and attempted to commit suicide.

The bishop's death has rocked the Coptic Church in Egypt, the largest Christian community in the Middle East.

Following the incident, the church announced a series of restrictive measures related to the activities of monks.

It said it was stopping accepting new monks for a year and gave current monks a month to disable all of their social media accounts.

The moves pointed to the existence of rifts within the church that some have tied to the bishop's murder. Some have speculated that the killing may have been over theological differences, with the slain bishop seen as a reformer who was sidelining conservatives.

Church authorities have remained largely silent on the matter.

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