By El-Sayed Gamal El-Din & Ayat Al Tawy – Ahram Online –
An Egyptian military court sentenced on Thursday 17 people to death and handed dozens of others hefty jail terms over their involvement in three deadly church bombings and joining the terrorist group Daesh.
The defendants were convicted for involvement in the bombing of Cairo’s Coptic Cathedral in December 2016, which killed at least 25 people, as well as the simultaneous bombings of churches in Alexandria and Tanta, which killed more than 45 people in April 2017.
Daesh claimed responsibility for all three attacks.
In April, the court referred 36 defendants accused of involvement in the attacks to the Grand Mufti, the country’s top religious authority, for consideration for the death penalty. The Mufti only confirmed death sentences against 17 of the defendants.
The Mufti’s opinion is non-binding but legally required ahead of a final death sentence.
On Thursday, the court also sentenced 19 others to life sentences, nine to 15 years in prison and one defendant to 10 years.
The prosecution charged the defendants with joining Daesh or holding leadership positions in an unlawful group that aims to disrupt public peace.
Six of the defendants have been convicted of carrying out an attack on a checkpoint in Egypt’s Western Desert in January 2017 that killed at least eight policemen.
The sentences can still be appealed before a higher military court.
Egyptian forces have been waging an extensive operation against Islamist terrorists that has intensified in recent years. The attacks have largely been against security forces but have also targeted civilians.