Former monk accused of killing the Egyptian bishop

File photo of a priest walking in front of St. Samuel the Confessor Monastery in Maghagha, Egypt.

The Egyptian prosecutor arrested a disgraced monk accused of killing a bishop in a desert monastery, his lawyer said Saturday, in a case that has shaken the Coptic community, the largest Christian minority in the Middle East.

The murder last month of Bishop Epiphanius, a 64-year-old scholar who led the Abu Makar monastery in Wadi Natroun, an area 110 kilometers northwest of Cairo, prompted the church to impose new and strict measures on its clergy.

Pope Tawadros II, the Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, canceled a meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence.


Attorney Ameer Naseef told Reuters a prosecutor in Alexandria accused Wael Saad, a monk who was known as Isaiah al-Makari before being stripped of his religious title, of the July 29 murder.

Prosecution officials were not immediately available, but judicial sources confirmed the report.

"The prosecutor's decision came yesterday, on Friday, and (the prosecution) requested that his resubmission be renewed on time," Naseef told Reuters, adding that this would be done on Sunday.

Christians in Egypt make up approximately 10 percent of their approximately 96 million inhabitants.

The church had previously said that Saad had been investigated for alleged long-standing violations of his duties as a monk, but denied having been suspected of involvement in the assassination of Bishop Epifanio.

The case has led the head of the Coptic church, Pope Tawadros II, to launch radical measures to combat what some Christian figures have described as violations of the principles of poverty and chastity.

The measures include freezing the acceptance of new monks, prohibiting monks from leaving monasteries without official permission and banning the use of clergy in social networks.

Since then Tawadros II and other clerics have closed their social media accounts.