Seventeen death sentences were confirmed and 19 life sentences were issued on Thursday to defendants convicted of involvement in the bombing of Cairo’s St. Peter and Paul Orthodox Church in December 2016, as well as the twin Palm Sunday bombings that targeted churches in Alexandria and Tanta in April 2017, according to lawyer Khaled al-Masry.
Alexandria’s military court had originally handed preliminary death sentences in April to 36 of the 48 defendants standing in Military Case 165/2017. While confirming 17 of those sentences in the Thursday ruling, the court also handed out several less severe punishments, sentencing one defendant to 15 years in a high-security prison, eight defendants to 15 years in prison and one defendant to 10 years in high-security prison. Two defendants died before the final ruling was issued.
Thirteen of the 36 originally handed the death penalty in April were sentenced in absentia, including Amr Saad, the leader of the Islamic State-affiliated group Soldiers of the Caliphate.
Mohamed Shafiq Mohamed Mostafa was identified by the Interior Ministry as the perpetrator of the Palm Sunday attack in Alexandria, in which 17 people were killed and 30 others wounded in the St. Mark Coptic Orthodox church. The ministry said that Mostafa was a member of the same terrorist cell that had been responsible for the December bombing that killed 24 people in the attack on the St. Peter and St. Paul Orthodox Church in Abbasseya, four months before the Palm Sunday bombing. The ministry also released the names of 19 other defendants who allegedly played a role in that terrorist cell.
In April 2017, the Interior Ministry announced it had identified Mamdouh Amin Baghdady as the suicide bomber involved in the attack on St. George Coptic Orthodox Church in Tanta during Palm Sunday prayers, which resulted in the deaths of at least 28 people. It also named three accomplices in the statement it issued at the time.
The military prosecution referred a total of 48 defendants to a military court in August 2017 and charged them with leading an Islamic State-affiliated group, establishing two Islamic State-affiliated terrorist cells cells in Cairo and Qena, involvement in the bombings of the churches, murder, attempted murder, attacking the Naqab checkpoint, killing security forces and seizing their weapons.