Egypt Sentences 37 to Death Including Former Army Officer

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An Egyptian court on Monday sentenced to death 37 defendants, including one of the country’s most high-profile militants, following their conviction of terrorism-related charges.

The Cairo Criminal Court said the defendants were charged with belonging to a local affiliate of the Islamic State group spearheading an insurgency in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

Among those sentenced to death was Hisham el-Ashmawi. The militant leader is a former army officer and was captured in Libya late in 2018 by forces loyal to Libyan Gen. Khalifa Hifter, a close ally of Egypt. A military court separately sentenced el-Ashmawi to death in November for his participation in scores of attacks on government targets.

Egypt has been fighting for years militants in the restive northern Sinai area and the vast Western Desert.

The men are among more than 200 defendants accused of carrying out more than 50 militant attacks that included killing high-ranking police officers and bombings that targeted the Egyptian capital’s police headquarters. The charges include a 2013 assassination attempt on the Egyptian interior minister.

The court also sentenced 61 defendants to life in prison, and 85 others got sentences ranging from 15 to 5 years in prison.

Monday’s verdict can be appealed before a higher court.

For years, Egypt’s security forces considered el-Ashmawi the country’s most wanted militant for his intelligence value.

Egyptian authorities linked el-Ashmawi, who is in his 40s, to several major attacks, including devastating assaults on security forces near Egypt’s porous desert border with Libya.

Before he fled to Libya, el-Ashmawi helped found Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, a jihadi organization based in northern Sinai. His military expertise — he left the Egyptian army in 2011 — transformed the tiny group into a well-organized guerrilla band that later inflicted painful blows on security forces in Sinai.

Beit al-Maqdis swore allegiance to the extremist Islamic State group in November 2014 and is now known as “Welayet Sinai,” or the province of Sinai.

El-Ashmawi did not declare his allegiance to IS, which at that time was at the peak of its power and controlled about a third of both Iraq and Syria.

In an audio recording released in 2015 that is believed to be authentic, el-Ashmawi allied himself with the Islamic State group’s rival, al-Qaida, led by Egyptian militant Ayman al-Zawahri.

After fleeing to Libya, he tried to establish himself among Islamic militants and extremists in the country’s east. He created al-Mourabitoun, a militant group blamed for most of the attacks in Egypt’s remote Western Desert, such as a 2017 ambush that killed nearly 30 Christian pilgrims on their way to a monastery.

Despite government efforts for years to contain the insurgency in Sinai, it gained strength following the 2013 military overthrow of a freely elected but divisive Muslim Brotherhood president.

Since then, the government has granted police forces and courts sweeping powers in response to Islamic militant attacks. Egyptian authorities have held mass trials and sentenced hundreds of people to death.

Human rights observers have repeatedly criticized such mass sentencings in Egypt and called on authorities to ensure fair trials.

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Masked and Gloved: Israelis in Quarantine from Coronavirus Vote in Election

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Paramedics dressed in head-to-toe protective gear stood guard at dedicated polling stations where Israelis under quarantine from the coronavirus voted in Monday’s election.

One by one, voters in face masks and gloves who have been isolated at home after crossing paths with coronavirus carriers filed through more than a dozen tents across the country to fill in their ballot slips in a close contest in which candidates are fighting for every last vote.

Election officials sat on the opposite side of a see-through plastic barrier to make sure things run smoothly.

Ten Israelis have tested positive for the virus and about 5,500 others, including those who have recently traveled to coronavirus hot spots, are under home quarantine, according to Israel’s Health Ministry.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking re-election under the weight of an imminent corruption trial, with the country’s third ballot in less than a year predicted to end in another deadlock.

Seeking to reassure voters over coronavirus fears, Israeli Health Minister Yaakov Litzman said he “hopes it will not have any effect at all, because we did all of the things that we should have done.”

Watching from afar outside a dedicated polling station constructed at the back end of an empty parking lot in Jerusalem, voter Rene Oseasohn, who is not in quarantine, said the virus “is a troubling feature but I don’t think there is much we can do about it.”

She said she was trying to keep her distance from other people and to not stay put in one place while hoping for the best.

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Re: Israel says US will ‘punish’ those who boycott UN blacklist companies

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Sanders is NOT running for political office in israel, and as such has zero need to attend the aipac conference, which should be registered as a foreign agent in the USA for the undo negative influence it wields in American politics. Netanyahu has proven he is racist when he was stoking fears about Palestinians voting in a recent election and described them as “coming out in droves” hardly a description one would have about people who are supposed to be on equal par with israeli jews. And Danon threatening that the USA will do the dirty work for israel simply because companies or individuals wish to pick and choose which company to do business with or not based upon a list of companies who benefit from the belligerent occupation of the West Bank shows how much israel is concerned about BDS, surely one is free to decide who ones business with for ones own reasons, this tirade from Danon proves that is not the case but he needs a new hairdresser at least…

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