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Egypt executes Coptic monk convicted in abbot's murder

Relatives of monk Wael Saad Tawadros say he has been hanged over the 2018 killing of Bishop Epiphanius
The late Bishop Epiphanius (left), abbot of Saint Macarius Monastery, with Pope Tawadros II (Screengrab)

Egyptian authorities executed a Coptic Christian monk convicted over the 2018 killing of the abbot of an ancient desert monastery, the monk's family told AFP on Sunday.

"We were told at 8am 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.

In 2019, an Egyptian court recommended the death sentence against 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.

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Epiphanius, the abbot of the Saint Macarius monastery, 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.

Prosecutors said Isaiah confessed to beating the cleric with a metal bar as the second monk, Philotheos, kept watch.

Authorities blamed the killing on unspecified "differences" between the bishop and the two monks.

The church later defrocked the pair and placed a one-year moratorium on ordaining new monks.

Coptic Christians make up between 10 and 15 percent of Egypt's population of over 100 million.

Last month, Egypt executed at least nine people over the storming of a police station in 2013 in which 13 policemen were killed.

Human rights group Amnesty International said it had noted "a significant spike" in recorded executions in Egypt.