An Egyptian court on Thursday, November 8 sentenced 65 suspected Islamic State members to between five years and life in prison for setting up a “terrorist cell,” a court official said.
The alleged cell had members in various parts of impoverished Upper Egypt – the south of the country – and was led by an “emir” Mostafa Ahmed Abdelaal.
The militants, charged in 2017, had “set up a terrorist cell in Upper Egypt which declared allegiance to [ISIS leader] Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi,” the court official said.
The court sentenced 18 of the defendants to life terms – a term of 25 years under Egyptian law – and another 41 to 15-year prison terms.
It also handed six minors five years each in jail and acquitted two suspects.
The sentences can be appealed.
Egyptian courts have convicted many suspected jihadists in mass trials which have been criticized by human rights groups.
A day earlier, an Egyptian military court sentenced eight Islamic State members to death for a deadly attack on the army in 2016. The court in Ismailia in the country’s northeast also sentenced 32 people to life imprisonment, while two others were given 15 years, and two defendants were acquitted.
All were identified as members of the Egyptian branch of Islamic State (Wilayat Sinai, or Sinai Province) which has led an insurgency in North Sinai and carried out several attacks across the country.
Since Egypt’s military toppled Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2014, the government and security forces have cracked down hard on secular opposition and Islamist extremism, but jihadist attacks have killed hundreds of police, soldiers and civilians.
In February, Egypt’s army launched a major offensive dubbed “Sinai 2018” to dislodge the insurgents from the peninsula.
More than 450 suspected jihadists and around 30 Egyptian soldiers have been killed since the offensive began, the army said in October.
Islamic State Sinai Province claimed responsibility for an attack against Egyptian Coptic Christians in Minya province, which killed six Copts and one Anglican last week.
Last month an Egyptian military court sentenced 17 people to death for a series of suicide bombings on Coptic Christian churches in 2016 and 2017.
With reporting from AFP