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World News

17 people sentenced to death for attacks on Eqypt's Coptic Church

by Cara Bentley

On Palm Sunday in April 2017, bomb attacks on Egypt's Coptic Churches in Alexandria and Tanta killed over 45 people and injured a further 126 people. 

An Egyptian military court decided this week that 17 people could be sentenced to death over this and a previous attack on a chapel adjacent to the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral of St. Mark in Cairo on 11 December 2016, which killed 25 people. 

The Islamic State group Daesh claimed responsibility for both attacks - just as it had for the 2011 church attack in Egypt's capital, when a bomb was left under a pew and killed 29 people as they worshiped God.

According to news site Ahram, 19 people were also sentenced to life imprisonment. 

The Grand Mufti, the highest official in interpreting Islamic law, is required to give his signature to permit a death sentence, although it doesn't make it legally binding and the sentences are subject to appeal. 

Amnesty International responded to the ruling, saying: "There can be no justification for the utterly reprehensible attacks which targeted worshippers in Coptic Christian churches across Egypt in 2017.

"There is no doubt that the perpetrators of these horrific attacks should be held accountable for their crimes. But handing out a mass death sentence after an unfair military trial is not justice and will not deter further sectarian attacks.

"Egypt has a shocking track record of unlawfully trying civilians in its notorious military courts and sentencing scores to death after grossly unfair mass trials, often based on 'confessions' extracted through torture. Those accused of involvement in these heinous crimes must be retried in a civilian court in proceedings that comply with international human rights law and fair trial standards."

Listen to a half-hour documentary about the Coptic Church one year on from the April 2017 bombings at the bottom of this page

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