Court sentences 1 person to death, 4 to life imprisonment over 2014 attack on police officers

One person was sentenced to death and four others were sentenced to life in prison on Sunday after being convicted of involvement in a 2014 attack on police forces guarding a Giza church, which led to the death of one police officer and injury of another.

On Sunday, a Giza criminal court headed by judge Shaaban al-Shamy sentenced defendant Mohamed Ibrahim Fathy to death and four other defendants to life in prison in the retrial of Case 4338/2014, according to defense lawyer Karim Seif al-Nasr.

The Giza Criminal Court had previously issued verdicts for the seven defendants in the case on September 20, 2014, sentencing four defendants to death and one defendant to life in prison. Two defendants in the case were sentenced in absentia, one of whom received a death sentence, while the other was sentenced to life imprisonment.

The Court of Cassation accepted the appeals of the five defendants who were present for the trial on March 12, 2016, granting them a retrial.

Seif al-Nasr claimed that, of the two defendants handed sentences in absentia, one was later arrested and issued a 10-year sentence in a separate retrial on May 8, 2018. The other defendant’s whereabouts remain unknown, the lawyer added.

The case dates back to January 28, 2014, when a group of armed individuals fired onto police forces stationed at the Virgin Mary Church in 6th of October City, killing a police officer and injuring another. 

Both Seif al-Nasr and the case files stated that the men were attempting to rob a jewelry store owned by Coptic Christians, when the neighboring church’s security force became suspicious of the group as they waited in their car. When the security forces approached the vehicle, an exchange of fire took place between security forces and the defendants, the lawyer added.

The day after the attack, the South Giza Public Prosecution ordered the detention of two suspects in the case for four days. The two individuals were accused of being accomplices in the murder of a police officer guarding the church. Security forces apprehended the primary suspect in the attack on February 1 of the same year.

Then-Prosecutor General Hesham Barakat — who was later assassinated in 2015 — referred seven defendants to a criminal court on March 30, 2014, on charges of murdering a police officer, premeditated intent to murder other security personnel, as well as establishing and operating an illegal organization with the purpose of preventing state institutions and officials from fulfilling their duties. The defendants were also charged with financing terrorist groups.

In what appears to be a significant escalation in Egypt’s use of the death penalty, a total of 15 people were executed last month in three separate cases.

According to a monthly survey conducted by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, 56 defendants were handed death sentences in January of this year, in addition to 48 others who received preliminary death sentences — which are sent to the Grand Mufti for his non-binding opinion — during the same month.

AD