CAIRO (Reuters) - An Egyptian court upheld death sentences on Saturday against five Islamists convicted of charges including killing a policeman and carrying weapons, judicial sources said.
Judge Moataz Khafagi had referred the case to the country’s highest Sunni Muslim authority for consideration, a necessary step before any execution can be carried out.
The men were charged in connection with an attack on a church in January in the western Cairo suburb of 6 October City.
The police and army have come under increasing attack in the past year by militants opposed to former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who led the army’s ousting of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi following protests against his rule.
Coptic Christians, which make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s 86 million people, have also been targeted by Islamist militants.
Egypt has drawn criticism from foreign governments and rights groups after another court sentenced to death hundreds of alleged supporters of the banned Muslim Brotherhood in mass trials.
The men sentenced on Saturday did not have any clear affiliation. One of them is on the run, the sources said. Two other men were sentenced to life in prison, though all the sentences can be appealed against.
The Brotherhood says it is a peaceful organisation but Cairo does not distinguish between it and other groups based mainly in the Sinai Peninsula which openly espouse violence against the government.
Sisi launched a crackdown on Islamists after Mursi’s overthrow and has said the Brotherhood would cease to exist under his presidency.
(This story has been refiled to add dateline, contact details)
Reporting by Stephen Kalin; Editing by Greg Mahlich