April 29, 2015 / 12:58 PM / in 3 years

Egypt sentences 69 to prison for church attack: judicial sources

CAIRO (Reuters) - Sixty-nine suspected Muslim Brotherhood supporters were each sentenced to 25 years in prison in Egypt on Wednesday for attacking and burning a church in a village near Cairo in 2013, judicial sources said.

The church in the village of Kafr Hakim, near Kerdasa just outside Cairo, was burned in August 2013 in a wave of violence that rocked the country after the army toppled elected Islamist president Mohamed Mursi following mass protests against his rule.

Egyptian authorities have jailed thousands of suspected members of Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood and the courts have sentenced hundreds to death.

The Brotherhood says it is committed to peaceful activism. Since taking office in 2014, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has identified Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood as a threat to national security.

Judge Mohamed Nagi Shehata also sentenced two other juvenile defendants to 10 years in jail each without parole, the sources said.

All the defendants were convicted on charges that included deliberately setting fire to a church and looting it, they added. The 69 were also fined 20,000 Egyptian pounds ($2,623) each.

“There is no proof against the defendants... even the church’s priest said he didn’t see any of the defendants after the incident,” Hany El-Sayed, a defense lawyer for some of the defendants, told Reuters. The verdict can be appealed.

Judge Shehata has played a prominent role in the Egyptian judiciary’s mass jailings of Islamist and liberal demonstrators.

Separately, another court sentenced 63 people to jail terms ranging from one to seven years in a case related to violence inside Al Azhar University’s campus in Cairo in Dec. 2013, state news agency MENA reported.

The university has witnessed repeated clashes between pro Brotherhood students and police. Another 13 defendants were acquitted, including a photo journalist.

The convicted were fined a total amount of 2.16 million Egyptian pounds. Their verdicts can also be appealed.

Reporting by Mahmoud Mourad and Ahmed Tolba; Editing by Yara Bayoumy and Andrew Heavens

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