By Reuters article The head of Egypt’s Church of the Immaculate Conception, the Coptic Orthodox church which was once the dominant religious force in Egypt, was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Friday for allegedly ordering the deaths of priests and nuns in a bid to consolidate his power and consolidate his influence in the country.
The Church of Christ in Egypt was accused of violating the countrys anti-terrorism law after the deaths in 2014 of at least 20 Egyptian priests and one nun who were believed to have been tortured, burned alive and buried alive.
The priests, known as the “Benedictine Fathers”, had accused the Church of being “the most evil” religion, and accused the church of using “magic, sorcery, witchcraft, sorcery against its followers”.
Egypt’s Catholic Church, a powerful institution in the world’s most populous Muslim nation, was founded in 1493 by Coptic Christian missionaries.
In modern times, the church has been the dominant church in Egypt.
It is a major institution in Egypt’s secular government, and is known to wield influence on Egyptian society.
A former top Egyptian judge who sentenced the Copts to death said on Friday that the court was taking a “political” approach and would not impose the death penalty on the former head of the church.
In his ruling, Judge Abdel-Hakim Salaie said the former pope had ordered the deaths “because he was afraid that his power would be diminished by the death of the bishops who would be in power in the Church, and that the country would not have the power to carry out the punishment of the criminals”.
“The death penalty is an important punishment for crimes,” Salaies said, adding that the case was “the latest example of how the Egyptian authorities have treated their Christian minorities”.
The Church said in a statement that it was surprised by the court’s decision.
“The court’s action is totally inappropriate and unjustified, and the Church is convinced that the sentence is not legally valid,” the statement said.
The former pontiff, who was elected in 2014, has been under house arrest since his arrest in March 2015.
His arrest sparked protests across Egypt.
The church and the country’s president have not commented publicly on the verdict.