Alexandria Criminal Court on 11 June handed a death sentence to Nehru Abdel-Moneim Tawfiq, 60, charged with premeditated murder of the Coptic priest Fr Arsanius Wadid.
Once the death sentence was read by Judge Wahid Sabry, the courthouse broke into applause. But the killer’s lawyer, Salah Eddin Hamid Abdel-Aziz, started yelling: “You have every right, Nehru; May Allah give you victory, Nehru; don’t be afraid Nehru, we’ll overturn the ruling”.
Lawyer Sameh Zaghloul, who represents the Coptic Church and the family of Fr Arsanius, submitted a claim to Alexandria judicial authorities in Alexandria against Mr Abdel-Aziz. Mr Zaghloul claimed that Mr Abdel-Aziz had publicly attempted to arouse sectarian sedition, incite murder, and jeopardise social peace.
Mr Abdel-Aziz’s behaviour was widely condemned on social media by Muslims and Christians alike.
Fr Arsanius, priest of the church of the Holy Virgin and Mar-Boulos (St Paul) in Karmouz, Alexandria, had been stabbed to death on the evening of 7 April by Mr Tawfiq, commonly known as Nehru. The 56-year-old priest had been accompanying a group of young men and women from church for a day of spiritual activity and leisure on the beach. They were boarding microbuses to take them home when Mr Nehru approached Fr Arsanius from the back and dealt him a deadly stab in the neck with a knife he was carrying. The priest was rushed to hospital but did not survive the stabbing.
In its sentence, the court said the evidence against Nehru was so damning—the prosecution had said there was not one piece of evidence that might have worked in his favour—that the only option it had was to hand him the harshest sentence. On 18 May 2022, the court referred the killer’s file to the Mufti for him to give an Islamic law based opinion on a death sentence for Nehru. The Mufti is the most senior Islamic cleric tasked with issuing fatwa, Islamic legal opinion, and his official approval is a precondition for any death sentence.
According to Egyptian law, it is mandatory that a death sentence be appealed in the country’s highest court, the Court of Cassation. Only then would it be final.
17 June 2022