CAIRO: An Egyptian court sentenced 24 people to death on Monday after finding them guilty of involvement in a deadly land dispute in the Nile Delta last year, a justice official told AFP.
A court in Damanhur has decided to send the cases of the 24 to the mufti so that he can sign their execution orders, the official said.
In Egypt, death sentences have to be approved by the top Muslim cleric or mufti as being in line with sharia.
Nine of those sentenced remain on the run and were convicted in absentia.
A total of 11 people were killed in the clashes in March last year in the Wadi Al-Natrun area, famous for its Coptic Christian monasteries.
But the Egyptian authorities insist there was no sectarian aspect to the clashes and that it was a purely financial dispute.
The area had seen soaring land prices amid a construction boom.
Judge Mahmoud Selim says the convicted and their victims were involved in a gun battle over 1,500 acres (600 hectares) of land. He says they were hired as thugs by two private organizations fighting over land claims.
Some of the convicted were identified as employees of the two organizations.
No date was set for the executions. The sentences were immediately appealed. -Agencies