By Taha Sakr
An Egyptian military court issued on Tuesday preliminary death penalties for 36 out of 48 defendants accused of bombing of churches in Alexandria and Tanta, in addition to attacking a police checkpoint inside New Valley.
The preliminary death penalties will be referred to Egypt’s Grand Mufti to seek his advisory opinion regarding their sentences.
The case dates back to the violent bombings that hit three churches in Egypt in 2017, when Egypt’s Attorney General Nabil Sadeq ordered the transfer of 48 suspects to the Military Court, accusing them of taking over a terrorist group and establishing two cells in the governorates of Cairo and Qena.
The suspects were also accused of bombing two churches in Alexandria and Tanta — as well as killing and attempting to kill worshipers and security forces. In addition to this they were charged with attacking a police checkpoint located in New Valley, and killing a number of police officers, stealing weapons, and possessing firearms and ammunition.
The Tanta and Alexandria church attacks killed 45 people.
The massacres were followed by another deadly attack targeting a bus full of Coptic Christians making their way to a monastery in Minya. Islamic State (IS) militants opened fire against the Copts and killed more than 27 people.
The North Sinai-based IS-affiliated group ‘Sinai Province’ had released numerous warnings and threats of violence against Copts in Egypt, including threats to bomb churches.
In an interview with IS-affiliated newspaper ‘al-Nabaa’, Sinai Province leader Abu Hager al-Hashmi said that his militants will target Copts anywhere in Egypt and warned Muslims keep their distance from churches and Coptic gatherings.