The second court session in the trial of the suspected killers of Anba Epiphanius (1954 – 2018), Abbot from 2013 to 2018 of the Monastery of St Macarius in Wadi al-Natroun in Egypt’s Western Desert, was held yesterday by Damanhour Criminal Court in Itai al-Baroud, Beheira.
On trial was Wael Saad Tawadros, a defrocked monk who had previously been at St Macarius’s under the name Ishaia’ al-Maqari; also another St Macarius, monk Falta’os al-Maqari. The two men are charged with the premeditated murder of Anba Epiphanius.
Both suspects confessed to having killed the Abbot as he left his cell in the early hours of 29 July and headed to the monastery church for Midnight Praise and Sunday Mass the following morning.
During the official investigation conducted once the murder was reported to the police, Mr Tawadros confessed to hitting Anba Epiphanius thrice on the head with an iron beam while the monk Falta’os checked that the coast was clear.
Falta’os al-Maqari later made a failed attempt at suicide, and still lies in a Cairo hospital, but was moved to the courthouse in Beheira in an ambulance vehicle to attend the trial.
In consideration for the health condition of Falta’os al-Maqari, Judge Gamal Tosson decided to hold the trial season in a chamber adjoining the court hall. The monk denied having killed the Abbot.
In a court session on 27 September, the defrocked monk Mr Tawadros had pleaded not guilty, saying his confession was extracted under threats and pressure, and that he was in a poor psychological condition when he confessed.
During yesterday’s session, the court listened to the testimony of Fr Angaelos, secretary of Pope Tawadros II, and six monks from St Macarius Monastery.
The court had addressed the Coptic Orthodox Church with an enquiry into the monastic standing of Falta’os al-Maqari and whether or not he had been defrocked. The Church replied through an official letter that defrocking decisions are taken basing on violations of monastic law, and only after hearing out the monk in question. Since it had been impossible to question the monk Falta’os, the Church’s letter said, because the medical authorities concerned had not allowed it, no decision was to date taken to defrock him.
The Coptic Church had last August decided, in a disciplinary action that targeted irregular conditions at St Macarius’s, to move six monks from St Macarius Monastery to other monasteries in various places in Egypt’s deserts. Among them was the 45-year-old monk Xenon al-Maqari who was moved to al-Muharraq Monastery in Assiut, some 350km south of Cairo. A few weeks later,
Xenon al-Maqari complained of severe pains in the abdomen and died before he reached the hospital. Post mortem investigations have not yet been completed to know the cause of his death, but his body was moved to St Macarius’s where he was buried. Xenon al-Maqari would have been the seventh witness for the prosecution in the trial on the murder of Anba Epiphanius, had he lived.
The court adjourned to 1 November 2018.
For full story on the murder of Anba Epiphanius, and the investigations:
28 October 2018