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BREAKING NEWS

Egypt seeks death sentence for two monks over bishop's murder

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CAIRO (Reuters) - An Egyptian court on Saturday recommended the death penalty for two monks after they were convicted of murdering a bishop at a monastery last year.

The judge referred the case of Wael Saad and Ramon Rasmi Mansour to the grand mufti, Egypt's top Muslim religious authority, who must review all death sentences and usually approves them. Mansour wept after the ruling, a witness said.

Saad, known by his monastic name Isaiah al-Makari and Mansour, known as Faltaous al-Makari, were convicted over the July killing of Bishop Epiphanius, 64, the abbot of Saint Macarius Monastery, some 110 km (70 miles) northwest of Cairo.

"The defendants were led by the devil to the path of evil and vice, and committing the greatest of the greatest sins and the greatest of crimes which the heavenly religions forbade," Judge Gamal Toson of the Damanhour court said in his ruling.

After review by Grand Mufti Shawqi Allam, the defendants will be sentenced on April 24. They will remain in custody.

Saad struck the bishop three times in the back of the head with a 90 cm (35 inch) steel pipe while Mansour stood guard outside, prosecutors said during the trial.

Saad had long had differences with his superiors, who on one occasion investigated him for breaking monastic rules and traditions, prosecutors said. Trial witnesses had said violations included seeking to buy and sell land.

He was defrocked in August over what church officials called violations of monastic life and then detained. Prosecutors said he tried to commit suicide with poison after he was defrocked.

Judicial sources said Saad had confessed when questioned about the killing.

The second monk, Mansour, had also attempted to commit suicide after the incident, prosecutors said.

(Additional reporting by Ahmed Tolba; Writing by Yousef Saba; Editing by Edmund Blair)

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