The death sentence handed last November to Ahmad Saeed Ibrahim al-Sonbati, 19, for premeditated murder of a Coptic priest was today approved by Egypt’s Mufti, making the sentence final. There is, however, a chance that if the case is taken to the Court of Cassation, the court might order a retrial.
Last November’s death sentence was handed to Sonbati by North Cairo Criminal Court for murdering Father Samaan Shehata, a 45-year-old Coptic Orthodox priest who was pastor of the church of Yulius al-Aqfahsi in the village of Ezbet Girgis in al-Fashn, Beni Sweif, some 100km south Cairo. The murder took place last October in the satellite town of Medinat al-Salam east of Cairo. [http://en.wataninet.com/coptic-affairs-coptic-affairs/sectarian/coptic-priest-martyred-by-muslim-extremist/21613/]. The court then referred al-Sonbati’s papers to the Mufti, the high-ranking Muslim cleric in charge of issuing Islamic legal opinion; the Mufti’s approval is required for a death sentence to become final.
Sonbati, a technician, was charged with the premeditated murder of Fr Samaan, whom he said he did not personally know. He said he had decided to kill any Coptic priest, purchased a dagger, and lay in wait for one to pass by, in a street leading to the local church. When Fr Samaan passed by—he was, incidentally, not going to the church but to a nearby warehouse whose owners had pledged donations for the poor in Fr Samaan’s village—Sonbati rushed at him and stabbed him in different places in his body.
Investigations revealed that Sonbati did not suffer any mental disorder and that he was fully conscious when he murdered the priest. In a few past cases, Muslim killers of Copts were pronounced mentally deranged, and were thus not convicted. Copts had been wary that Sonbati might have been declared mentally unbalanced and would have got away with his murder,
12 February 2018