71 get life sentences for torching Christian church in Egypt

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CAIRO (CNN – April 29, 2015) — An Egyptian court has sentenced 71 people to life in prison for their role in the August 2013 burning of a Christian church in the Giza province village of Kafr Hakim, state news reports.

The Virgin Mary Church was torched and looted by a mob, some of whom chanted against Coptic Christians and called for Egypt to become an “Islamic state,” one of at least 42 churches and many more businesses and homes targeted that August, the advocacy group Human Rights Watch reports. Others attacked included St. George Church in Sohag, a city south of Cairo on the Nile River, and Prince Tadros Church in Fayoum, which is southwest of Cairo, according to reports.

In addition to those getting life sentences, two minors were sentenced to 10 years in prison and fined 10,000 Egyptian pounds (about $1,300), Egypt’s official Egynews reported.

Most of those sentenced — 52 of the 73 defendants — were tried in absentia, with 21 already in prison, according to Egynews.

Some blamed the church and other attacks on supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist movement that backed Mohamed Morsy. Morsy became Egypt’s first democratically elected president following the ouster of longtime leader Hosni Mubarak. Morsy was pushed out by Egypt’s military.

Morsy was sentenced to 20 years in prison earlier this month after being convicted on charges related to violence outside the presidential palace in December 2012. But he was acquitted of murder in the deaths of protesters.

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