Egypt jails 40 Mursi backers for church fires

Dozens of churches were attacked across Egypt after a violent dispersal of two pro-Mursi protest camps in August 2013

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An Egyptian court sentenced 40 backers of ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi to up to 15 years in jail Thursday for violence including torching churches, a judicial source said.

Followers of Mursi have been the target of a relentless crackdown by the authorities since he was deposed in July 2013 by ex-army chief and now President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

The criminal court in Assiut in southern Egypt sentenced two defendants to 15 years each, while the others were given jail terms ranging from one year to 10, the source said.

They were accused of taking part in acts of violence in Assiut last year during which five churches, several police stations and a number of shops were set on fire. There were no reported casualties.

The court acquitted 61 others standing trial in the same case, the source said.

Violent clashes erupted across Egypt on August 14, 2013, as news spread across the country of a violent dispersal by the police and army of two protest camps in Cairo set up by Mursi supporters.

Dozens of churches and church properties were attacked across Egypt after the bloodshed, in response to perceived Coptic Christian support for Mursi's ouster.

The crackdown since then has left at least 1,400 people dead and more than 15,000 imprisoned.

The ex-president and many top leaders of his now-banned Muslim Brotherhood are themselves in jail and on trial in cases in which they face the death penalty if convicted.

Dozens of Mursi supporters have been sentenced to death after mass trials which the United Nations says are "unprecedented" in recent history.

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