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Egypt court sentences man to death for killing Coptic priest on seaside promenade

Nehru Tawfiq, 60, an Islamist with an extremist background, convicted of murdering 56-year-old Arsanious Wadid in sectarian attack; his lawyers say killing not deliberate

Egyptian Coptic Christian priests pray during the Easter Eve service at St. Mark's Cathedral in Cairo, Egypt, April 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
Illustrative: Egyptian Coptic Christian priests pray during the Easter Eve service at St. Mark's Cathedral in Cairo, Egypt, April 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

CAIRO — An Egyptian court Saturday sentenced a man to die for the April stabbing death of a Coptic Christian priest in an attack that shocked the Arab world’s most populous nation.

Nehru Tawfiq, 60, was convicted in Alexandria criminal court of murder for killing 56-year-old priest Arsanious Wadid and of illegal possession of a knife. His lawyers had argued that the killing was not deliberate. Tawfiq can appeal the verdict.

Wadid was killed at a popular seaside promenade in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria in April.

Investigators found that Tawfiq was an Islamist with an extremist background. During last month’s court session he appeared in court in a caged-off section of the room shouting “God is great” in Arabic.

He attempted to recite verses from the Quran, the Muslim holy book, before judges ordered him to keep silent.

The attack marked the latest sectarian violence in Egypt. Islamic extremists have repeatedly targeted Christians in recent years, especially after the 2013 military ouster of late Islamist president Mohammed Morsi, an elected but divisive leader, amid mass protests against his rule.

In September 2017, an alleged supporter of the Islamic State group stabbed to death an 82-year-old Christian doctor in Cairo. He was sentenced to death the following year.

Egyptian Copts — the Middle East’s largest Christian community — account for about 10% of the country’s 103 million people and repeatedly complain of discrimination at the hands of the Muslim majority.

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