A court in Egypt has sentenced 40 people to life in prison over links to the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group, which Cairo blames for a series of attacks in the north of the country.
The Criminal Court of Zagazig, a city in eastern Egypt, ruled on Wednesday that the convicts were tied to Daesh and had helped the terror group recruit Egyptian youths for operations in Iraq and Syria.
According to the ruling, the convicts had also plotted attacks against police forces and Christians across Egypt. Half of the convicts were sentenced in absentia.
Prosecutors said details about illegal activities of the convicts were retrieved from confessions of alleged ringleaders who had been arrested at Cairo’s international airport on their way to Syria through Turkey.
For more than a year, Egypt has been engaged in a large-scale crackdown on individuals believed to have supported Daesh and its affiliate Velayat Sinai, which operates in the Sinai Peninsula.
Velayat Sinai has intensified its attacks on civilians and security forces in Sinai and elsewhere since Egypt’s former chief of the armed forces Abdel Fattah el-Sisi rose to power and became president in 2013.
In July last year, the Egyptian military launched an operation against militant positions in the wake of coordinated terrorist attacks on army checkpoints, which claimed the lives of 21 soldiers.
Egypt’s crackdown on suspected militants has faced growing international criticism as human rights groups accuse authorities in Cairo of using alleged links to Daesh as a pretext to detain dissidents. Rights groups say most of the confessions that courts in Egypt rely on for verdicts have been extracted using torture and physical abuse.