Aswat Masriya (Cairo)

23 August 2014

Egypt: Five Preliminarily Sentenced to Death for Managing a "Terrorist Cell"

Cairo — The Giza Criminal Court referred on Saturday five defendants to the Grand Mufti to consider sentencing them to death for managing a "terrorist cell" and killing a policeman.

The five defendants were arrested for opening fire on the Virgin Mary Church in October 6 City on January 28. The shooting left one policeman, sergeant Mohamed Taha Sayed, killed and another injured.

The final ruling on the case was scheduled for September 20, after receiving the Grand Mufti's decision. The Mufti is Egypt's top religious authority; his decisions are not legally binding, although it is customary for the court to adopt them.

In March, Egypt's Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat referred seven defendants to the criminal court in the same case.

The men were accused of establishing and managing a terrorist organisation with the purpose of halting state institutions' activities, forcibly toppling the ruling regime, attacking security forces and endangering society. The prosecutor general also charged them with premeditated murder and attempted murder.

The suspects were attempting to rob a jewelry shop near the church when the two policemen guarding the church tried to stop the robbery, the prosecution had said, adding that the suspects then shot at them. Two of the defendants were wounded in the crossfire.

At the time of the incident, the ministry of interior had accused the assailants of opening fire on the church guards.

Tens of churches and property belonging to Coptic Christians have witnessed attacks since the ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi.

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