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Egypt upholds death sentences for Islamists over prosecutor killing

An Egyptian court has sentenced 28 people to death for their involvement in the murder of the country's chief prosecutor in 2015. Hisham Barakat was killed in a car bomb after jihadists called for attacks on judiciary.

The Cairo Criminal Court also handed down jail sentences ranging from 10 years to life to 38 co-defendants in the same case. Of 67 defendants, 15 are still at large. The ruling can be appealed.

Saturday's sentences came after consultations with the Grand Mufti, Egypt's highest religious authority, over preliminary death sentences issued in June.

Barakat was killed in 2015 in a car bomb attack in Cairo after Egypt's powerful military toppled former president Mohammed Morsi's elected government in 2013. Morsi's Islamist supporters had vowed to avenge it by increasing attacks on pro-military officials and judiciary.

Read: Ousted Egyptian president Morsi has life sentence overturned

No group claimed responsibility for Barakat's assassination, but police later said the perpetrators were members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood organization.

Politically-motivated trials?

"The verdicts were shocking today," said Ahmed Saad, a defense lawyer.

"Others who had nothing to do with the assassination of martyr Hisham Barakat received life sentences. They had nothing to do with the incident," he added.

Last year, Egypt's Interior Ministry released a video showing several young men confessing to having received training from the militant Hamas group in Gaza. The defendants later retracted their statements and alleged the police tortured them to make confessions.

Egyptian courts have sentenced hundreds of Morsi followers since 2013. Rights groups say the trials do not meet international standards of justice.

Morsi became the first democratically-elected president of the country in 2011 after the end of Mubarak's decades-long rule, but was ousted by Egypt's powerful army following a mass uprising against him in 2013. Army head Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi was subsequently elected president.

Watch video 02:30

German tourists killed in Egypt - Ruth Michaelson in Cairo

shs/aw (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)

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