10/12/2018, 10.15
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Egypt, military court sentences 17 people to death for the attack on Coptic churches

Sentenced another 19 defendants to life imprisonment or several years in prison. For the judges they are guilty of membership of the Islamic State. Activists and NGOs against the trial in a military court. "Horrible" attacks, but an "unjust" proceeding do not guarantee justice.

Cairo (AsiaNews / Agencies) - A military court in Egypt has sentenced to death 17 people, held responsible for a series of attacks against some Coptic Christian churches in the country, which caused dozens of victims and wounded between 2016 and 2017 to the Cairo, Alexandria and Tanta.

According to Mena State Agency, in the context of criminal proceedings another 19 defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment or sentences between 10 and 15 years in prison.

The Islamic State (IS, ex Isis) had claimed responsibility for the attacks, pointing out that the suicide bombers and assailants who blew themselves up inside the churches were militants or affiliated to the jihadist group.

The cases that were the object of the trial concerned in particular the attacks against three Christian places of worship: the Coptic Orthodox church of Saint Peter's in the Abaseya district in Cairo, which caused 29 victims; the bombings of April 2017 at Coptic churches in Tanta and Alessandria, where 45 people died.

Anonymous sources of the Egyptian magistracy report that the condemned were also found guilty of membership of the Islamic State; some of them also for an attack launched on January 16 last year against a police checkpoint in Naqab, a desert area in the south-west of Egypt.

During the initial stages of the trial, the Minister of Justice Nabil Sadeq had requested the referral of the 48 defendants to the military court, on charges of having created terrorist cells in the governorates of Cairo and Mena. A choice criticized by some activists and NGOs, who judge the whole process "unjust".

There is no doubt that the defendants have committed "horrible crimes," Amnesty International says in a statement, but the death sentence at the conclusion of an "unjust military trial" does not do justice. They deserved a "civil proceeding".

In a nation of almost 95 million people with a large Muslim majority, Coptic Christians are a substantial minority of around 10% of the total population. Between 2016 and 2017 the Land of the Pharaohs recorded a series of bloody attacks, which involved the Christian community itself.

The escalation of violence led to fears of the cancellation of Pope Francis’ Apostolic journey to Egypt, April last year. However, the pontiff respected the program by meeting the president of the Republic, the great imam of al-Azhar and celebrating mass in front of tens of thousands of faithful.

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