An Egyptian court sentenced 26 people, all in absentia and all but one to death, on Wednesday over allegations of forming a terrorist group and targeting the vital Suez Canal water corridor.
The Cairo Criminal Court held one session before issuing its verdict since all defendants are on the run. Among the 26, one is below 18-year-old, a juvenile who will be exempted from the death penalty.
Defendants tried in absentia typically are convicted and receive the maximum sentence for a specific offense. However, they also usually get an automatic retrial.
The prosecutors charged the group with planning attacks on ships passing the canal last year, security buildings, foreign tourists, Christians and police.
Prosecutors also accused the defendants of making rockets and explosives while monitoring various security headquarters to plan attacks on them, the sources said.
The defendants were condemned for “founding and leading a terror group that aimed to attack people’s freedom, damage national unity and (attack) the Suez canal waterway,” an anonymous source told AFP.
An al-Qaeda-inspired group, Furqan Brigades, attacked vessels passing through the canal last year and have vowed to conduct more attacks in the future.
However, it was not clear if those sentenced on Wednesday are linked to that group.
Egypt has been hit with a wave of bombings and suicide attacks since the military ouster of Egypt’s first elected Islamist president Mohammed Morsi in July. Morsi’s removal followed days of demonstrations by millions of Egyptians demanding he step down, accusing him of abusing his power.
After Morsi’s fall, the security forces unleashed a heavy crackdown on Morsi’s supporters who held mass demonstrations denouncing the military takeover and demanding that he be reinstated. Hundreds were killed in the summer and thousands jailed.
The interim government has labeled Morsi’s group, The Muslim Brotherhood, as terrorist. It says the Brotherhood orchestrated attacks including bombings. The Brotherhood denies the claims.
Most of the bombings have in fact been claimed by an al-Qaida-inspired group, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis or the Champions of Jerusalem. Last year the group posted a video showing a masked gunman firing a rocket-propelled grenade, supposedly near the canal.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP)
Date created : 2014-02-26