Cairo Criminal Court has handed death sentences to two men charged with killing nine Copts and a policeman. The court referred the papers of Ibrahim Ismail and Adel Imam Muhammad to the State Mufti for approval of the death sentence. The Mufti is a Muslim cleric in charge of issuing fatwa (Islamic legal opinion) and the State Mufti is a high-ranking Islamic scholar who undertakes that task. The Mufti’s approval is a legal precondition for a death sentence in Egypt to become final.
On 29 December 2017, two gunmen had opened fire at the church of Mar-Mina in Helwan, while the congregation was attending Mass inside. The police security guards stationed outside the church exchanged fire with them; one security guard, a Muslim, as well as one gunman fell dead. The other gunman tried to flee through a side street but was caught by the other security guards. The church guards hastened to shut the gates of the church, and thus protected the congregation inside. But right outside the church, six Copts were killed. On their way to the church, the two gunmen had attacked a Coptic-owned shop that sells home appliances, and killed two Coptic brothers who worked there.
The two men sentenced to death were among eleven who were referred to criminal court by Egypt’s Prosecutor-General Nabil Ahmad Sadeq in December 2018.
The 11 suspects are men aged between 30 and 58 and comprise labourers, agriculture peasants, technicians, businessmen, teachers, and traders.
The charges against them cover terror activities from 2016 to March 2018, and included the premeditated murder of eight Egyptian citizens for their being Christian, also a policeman; intended murder; robbery; unlicensed procuring and carrying arms; founding and leading a terror organisation that aims at halting the application of the Constitution and law; prohibiting State institutions and public authorities from executing their jobs; assaulting the personal freedom of citizens; and harming national unity and social peace through embracing the thought of Daesh also known as the Islamic State IS.
The court has scheduled 12 May to pronounce the verdict for the other nine suspects.
16 April 2019