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Egyptian court sentences Muslim man to death for murder of Coptic Christian priest in Cairo

(Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)Women pass by the Coptic church that was bombed on Sunday in Tanta, Egypt, April 10, 2017.

An Egyptian court has sentenced a Muslim man to death by hanging on Monday for the murder of a Coptic Christian priest in Cairo last October.

Ahmad Saeed, a suspected militant, was sentenced by the Cairo Criminal Court after his conviction was approved by the Grand Mufti, the country's top Islamic official. Saeed will be allowed to appeal the verdict.

According to Gulf News, Saeed was arrested on Oct. 12 after he fatally stabbed Coptic priest Samaan Shehata in the Cairo suburb of Al Salam City. Witnesses recounted that Saeed attacked the Shehata with a long knife as the priest was leaving his car. A Coptic clergyman who accompanied Shehata was also injured in the attack.

Surveillance camera footage had shown the suspect chasing Shehata as he was trying to escape and eventually stabbing him in the stomach and the head. The video also showed citizens attempting to aid Shehata, but it was too late.

Shehata had reportedly visited Cairo that time to raise donations for his church in Egypt's southern province of Beni Suef.

The murder has been condemned by Christian leaders, such as Bishop Anba Angaelos of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the U.K.

"This incident makes us once again ask so many questions. Why should a priest not be able to walk safely down a street, especially a suburban street in Cairo? Why should he be chased by a man brandishing a deadly weapon and have no one run to his aid; in actual fact, everyone was running away." the bishop said at the time.

"I would be just as angry if this was any other person being dealt with in this way, in any other part of Egypt or indeed any other part of the world. Yet he is a Christian, a Coptic Christian, and a Coptic priest, which makes it all the more close and all the more painful," he continued.

Christians have been calling out for justice and better protection from the government as they continue to be targeted in church shootings and bombings. Many of the attacks had been organized or inspired by the Islamic State terror group, which is seeking to spread its influence in the country.

In May, at least 28 people were killed after members of ISIS attacked a bus transporting Coptic Christians to a monastery in the southern province of Minya.

As many as 47 people have been killed the previous month after the same terror group attacked two churches in the coastal city of Alexandria and the Delta province of Tanta.

Christians were among the staunch supporters of President Abdel Fattah al Sisi, who had promised to work harder in securing the safety of citizens. The president was reportedly cheered by Christians when he attended the midnight mass, led by Pope Tawadros II, over Christmas in Cairo.

Meanwhile, a nationwide state of emergency that was prompted by last year's attacks is still in effect in the country.

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