Egypt sentences 26 over Suez plot
An Egyptian court has sentenced 26 people, all in absentia and all but one to death, for forming a terrorist group and planning attacks on the Suez Canal.
The Cairo Criminal Court held one session before issuing its verdict since all defendants are on the run. Among the 26, one is aged below 18, a juvenile who will be exempt from the death penalty.
Defendants tried in absentia are typically convicted and receive the maximum sentence for a specific offence. However, they also usually get an automatic retrial.
The prosecutors charged the group with planning attacks on ships passing the canal last year, security buildings, foreign tourists, Christians and police.
Egypt has been hit with a wave of bombings and suicide attacks since the military ousting of its first elected Islamist president Mohammed Morsi in July. Morsi's removal followed days of demonstrations by millions of Egyptians demanding he step down, accusing him of abusing his power.
After Morsi's fall, security forces unleashed a heavy crackdown on his supporters who held mass demonstrations denouncing the military takeover and demanding he be reinstated. Hundreds were killed in the summer and thousands jailed.
The interim government has labelled Morsi's group, The Muslim Brotherhood, as terrorist. It says the Brotherhood orchestrated attacks including bombings. The Brotherhood denies the claims.
Most of the bombings have in fact been claimed by an al-Qaida-inspired group, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis or the Champions of Jerusalem. Last year the group posted a video showing a masked gunman firing a rocket-propelled grenade, supposedly near the canal.