Cairo — The Cairo Criminal Court sentenced on Saturday jihadist Adel Habara and six others to death for killing 25 soldiers in Rafah in August last year.
Militants ambushed a bus in Sinai and shot dead 25 Central Security conscripts after they forced them to leave their transportation on August 19, 2013. The attack, dubbed by the media as the “second Rafah massacre”, closely followed the deadly dispersal of two sit-ins set up in support of ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi.
Three more defendants were sentenced to life in prison. The court sentenced 22 others to 15 years in prison and acquitted three defendants.
Only Habara and 18 other defendants were sentenced in session; the remaining 16 defendants were sentenced in absentia, judicial sources told Reuters.
The death sentences were served after consulting Egypt’s Grand Mufti, a procedural steps adopted in all cases which involve death sentences. The Mufti’s rulings are not binding, yet it is customary for the court to adopt them.
In his report to the court, the Mufti said that “the conditions for executing the seven defendants were all present,” adding that there is no doubt over their conviction.
The court accused the defendants of “adopting the ideas of the al-Qaeda militant group; declaring rulers as infidels and assassinating military and police leaders.” It added that the defendants “misunderstand Islam”.
The defendants were charged with “committing terrorist acts”, the premeditated murder of the 25 conscripts, spying for al-Qaeda group and establishing an illegal group attempting to stall the constitution and state institutions.
Habara has been sentenced to death in absentia before for complicity in two terrorist bombings in Sinai in 2004 and 2006.
Militants have stepped up attacks targeting security forces in Egypt, particularly in the Sinai Peninsula, since Mursi’s military ouster in July 2013, which followed mass protests against his rule.
At least 30 military personnel were killed in a suicide blast which targeted a security checkpoint in Sinai’s Sheikh Zuweid on October 24, in the worst militant attack since Mursi’s ouster.