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Court reduces death sentences against 10 defendants in Zawahiri cell case
Courtesy: Al-Ahram

Ten defendants who had been sentenced to death for organizing a terrorist cell had their sentences reduced to life in prison by the Court of Cassation on Monday.

Cairo Criminal Court dispensed the 10 death sentences in October 2015, alongside 32 life sentences and 18 15-year sentences in what is known as the Zawahiri cell case, an allusion to Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) member Mohamed al-Zawahiri, the brother of Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, who was among the initial defendants in the trial.

Zawahiri and 15 others were acquitted in the 2015 ruling, a move that the Court of Cassation upheld on Monday.

The prosecution’s initial investigations leveled charges against those party to the case of forming and managing a terrorist organization that aimed to bring down the government, attacking police and Armed Forces personnel and targeting Coptic Christians and churches among a list of other terrorist acts.

Cairo Criminal Court has issued a number of death sentences in connection to terrorism-related cases in the past month. Foremost among these are the death sentences handed out to 28 defendants standing trial for the assassination of former Prosecutor General Hesham Barakat. Jail terms for the remaining 38 defendants ranged from 10 years to 25-to-life terms, with 15 receiving life sentences, eight 15 years and 15 10 years.

The court also issued preliminary death sentences to eight defendants accused of storming Helwan Police Station. The final ruling are expected to be issued on October 10 following Grand Mufti Shawky Allam’s review of the sentences.

Hundreds of defendants believed to be supporters of former President Mohamed Morsi or members of the Muslim Brotherhood have been handed death sentences for a range of charges since the former president’s ousting in 2013.

Many of these sentences were overturned on appeal, but at least five were upheld, including military court rulings against six defendants in the May 2015 Arab Sharkas cell case, against seven defendants implicated in the Kafr al-Sheikh Stadium case, against two defendants in the Qaed Ibrahim incident case on charges linked to the assault and death of police personnel in a series of incidents that took place in downtown Alexandria near the Qaed Ibrahim Mosque, against 20 defendants in the Kerdasa case and against Adel Habara, who was accused of killing 25 soldiers in North Sinai in 2014. Habara was executed in December 2016.