Egypt sentences 7 to death over Daesh links, beheadings
CAIRO: An Egyptian court has sentenced seven people to death over links to the Daesh group in Libya.
The court on Saturday condemned them to death on charges of participating in the beheading in Libya in 2015 of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christian workers — all but one of them from Egypt, judicial officials said.
Other charges include belonging to a militant group affiliated with a Daesh branch in Libya, weapons possession and inciting violence.
Daesh in Libya posted a video on the Internet in February 2015 of the gruesome beheadings on a Libyan beach, sparking international condemnation and Egyptian airstrikes against militant targets in the neighboring Arab state.
Egypt again struck in May what it said were militant targets in Libya after Daesh claimed a massacre of Coptic Christians on their way to a monastery south of Cairo.
Saturday’s ruling refers the case to the grand mufti, the country’s top theological authority, to solicit his non-binding opinion on the sentences. The referral is a formality in cases of capital punishment. The verdict is subject to appeal.
Death sentences in Egypt are subject to review by the country’s mufti as the official interpreter of Islamic law, although his verdict is not legally binding.
Of the seven defendants, three were sentenced to death in absentia, the officials said. An unspecified number of those condemned were accused of having taken part in the beheadings.
Prosecutors accused the seven suspects of membership of a Daesh cell in Marsa Matruh, northwest Egypt, and of planning attacks after having received military training at militant camps in Libya and Syria.
The court has set a Nov. 25 date for issuing the final verdict in the case, which involves 20 defendants in the same case.
Egypt has been battling an insurgency by a Daesh affiliate based in North Sinai since the military’s ouster in 2013 of President Muhammad Mursi.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi said military reverses for Daesh group in war-torn Syria were driving its fighters to try to relocate to Libya and the Sinai Peninsula of eastern Egypt.
Hundreds of members of Egypt’s security forces have been killed, while more than 100 Copts have died in church bombings since December.