Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Egypt court sentences militant leader/terrorist to death

A top Egyptian militant leader was sentenced to death on Wednesday for killing two police commanders and for organizing bomb attacks against security officials and tourists in the 1990s.

Abdel Hamid Musa Abu Aqrab, who headed the military wing of Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiya group, was charged with "pre-meditated murder" of two police commanders who were shot to death in 1992 and 1993.

State authorities fought gunbattles to quash an organized Islamist uprising in the 1990s. Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiya, one of the militant groups, targeted ministers, the police and tourists.

The group was also blamed for a failed 1995 assassination attempt on President Hosni Mubarak in Addis Ababa.

A judge at the state security court referred Abu Aqrab's case for confirmation by Egypt's top religious authority, the Grand Mufti, in a procedural step that almost always confirms the death penalty.

The court will announce the final verdict on October 20.

Verdicts issued by the state security court are final unless defendants obtain presidential pardons, which are seldom given.

Abu Aqrab had been tried in absentia and given the death penalty while at large in southern Egypt for some 15 years. He handed himself over to the authorities in 2007 and requested a retrial.

There are no signs of a return to an insurgency on the scale of the 1990s, but analysts see the possibility of small and random acts of violence by unorganized people with no security records.

Egypt's emergency law, in force since Islamic militants assassinated President Anwar Sadat in 1981, allows indefinite detention and trials in state security courts which rights groups say are used to secure swift and often harsh verdicts.

Rights groups and Western states have said the emergency law should be lifted.