An Egyptian Supreme State Security court on Wednesday sentenced 26 defendants who had been charged with membership in the Lebanese resistance group Hizbullah, conspiracy and terrorism charges.
Four of the indicted were given life sentences, while two were given 15-year prison sentences, and 15 received ten-year prison sentences. The rest were given between seven and six-month prison terms.
Four of the defendants were tried in absentia. Amon them were three of the four who got life sentences (one of them the supposed Lebanse leader of the group, Muhame Qublan). The rest appeared in the dock, shouting "God is great!" and claiming that the court was working for the interests of "the state security of Israel"
The defendants, two Lebanese, five Palestinians, one Sudanese and 18 Egyptians, were found guilty of "collecting intelligence for the interest of a foreign entity, possessing explosive material, spying and plotting against interests in the Suez Canal, digging smuggling tunnels between Egypt and Gaza, and planning attacks against Israelis and against resorts popular with them." They were arrested in November 2008.
When questioned in court, the defendants denied working against Egypt's interests. They had pleaded not guilty, saying they were in Egypt to transfer weapons and material aid to Palestinian resistance forces inside the Gaza Strip.
On Wednesday, and before handing down the sentences, presiding judge Adel Abdel Salam Gomaa said in response to the claims: "Does supporting the Palestinian resistance include collecting information on Egyptian [interests] in the provinces of north and south Sinai, pinpointing tourist resorts [for attack], renting property overlooking the Suez Canal, making explosives and keeping them with [one of the defendants] in the province of North Sinai?"
He added that the group had intended to harm the Egyptian economy or "sever the veins" of its people. "These men have dared to question what Egypt has done for the Palestinian people," the judge said.
In the dock, and after the judge's speech, several of the defendants cried out "Shame on you!" in addition to shouting slogans about Jerusalem.
Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hiezbollah, had admitted earlier that one of the men was an agent for the movement but denied any plan to harm Egypt.He said that the Hezbollah member had been assigned to smuggling weapons to Palestinian fighters in Gaza.
In past sessions, state security prosecutors had asked for death sentences for six of the defendants, charging them with espionage and treason as well as receiving aid not only from Hizbullah but also from Iran.