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Egypt Sentences 71 People to Life in Prison for Burning Christian Church

Egypt Sentences 71 People to Life in Prison for Burning Christian Church

Undated file photo of Egyptian prisoners. | (Photo: Reuters)

An Egyptian court has handed out life in prison sentences to 71 people for burning a Christian church in in the Giza province village of Kafr Hakim in 2013.

CNN reported that the people were part of a mob that chanted for Egypt to become an "Islamic State" as they torched and looted The Virgin Mary Church in 2013, following anti-government unrest. Christians were heavily targeted in Egypt following the fall of former President Mohammed Morsi, which later led to the Muslim Brotherhood being outlawed.

Reports said that 52 out of the 73 defendants were tried in absentia, with 21 already in prison. Two minors were additionally given 10 years in prison and fined the equivalent of $1,300.

Reuters noted that the verdict can be appealed.

Hany El-Sayed, a defense lawyer for some of the defendants, said: "There is no proof against the defendants ... even the church's priest said he didn't see any of the defendants after the incident."

Morsi himself was sentenced last week to 20 years in prison for carrying out unlawful arrests and torture during his time in power. It was the first verdict Morsi has received since he was brought down from power, and is one of several trials he is facing.

Morsi could have received the death penalty for the more serious charge of inciting the killing of protesters, but was cleared by the court.

Retired Field Marshall Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, who won the presidential elections in 2014, has been hailed by some Christians for protecting them and helping bring an end to the violence that swept the nation in 2013.

"Many Christians, and even Muslims, think that Sisi saved them from the Islamic groups and he is the hero and savior that we are all waiting for. In Egypt you have to choose from two choices: Military or Islamist. So, if I am Christian, for sure I'll choose the military even if I don't like them," Mahmoud Farouk, executive director of the Egyptian Center for Public Policy Studies, said at the time.

There has been a serious clampdown on Muslim Brotherhood members during Sisi's reign, and the group has been forced to go underground. Thousands of people have been jailed for participating in the group, while hundreds of others have received death sentences for taking part in the bloodshed during the 2013 unrest.

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