The Giza Criminal Court sentenced, on Wednesday, 71 people to life on charges of attacking and burning a Church in Kerdasa.
The court also sentenced two minors to 10 years in prison.
They are charged with burning the Kafr Hakim Church in the village of Kerdasa on 14 August 2013, in the post-Rabaa Al-Adaweya dispersal violence. They are also charged with joining an illegal group, possession of weapons, and attempted murder.
The judge on the case is Nagy Shehata, a controversial figure in the Egyptian judiciary. Shehata has handed out hundreds of death and prison sentences to defendants in several cases.
The sentences, often harshly criticised by human rights organisations and the international community, are justified by the Egyptian state as a part of its practice of sovereignty, adding that the government does not intervene in the decisions of the judiciary.
What followed the Rabaa Al-Adaweya and Nahda Square dispersals was a series of retaliations that varied from attacks on Coptic Christians, police officers, and unarmed civilians. The majority of attacks on churches took place in Upper Egypt.
According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), more than 40 churches were attacked in Egypt since August 14, 2013, when the security forces launched a bloody crackdown against demonstrations demanding the return of Morsi.
The attacks were concentrated in Minya and Assiut, in central Egypt, where attackers torched 11 and eight churches respectively, HRW said.
Islamists accused Egypt’s Copts of supporting the forced military ouster of Islamist president Morsi in July 2013. The perception was fuelled by Coptic Pope Tawadros II’s appearance with then-General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi when he spoke on television to announce Morsi’s removal from office.
Amnesty International previously criticised security forces and the government for failing to prevent sectarian violence, adding that both the Egyptian government and the Muslim Brotherhood are to blame.
Following the devastation, Pope Tawadros announced that after a preliminary survey of damage inflicted in sectarian violence, an estimated cost of EGP 190m would be required for restoration.
The armed forces had previously confirmed that it would rebuild churches that were attacked following the clearing of the sit-ins at Rabaa Al-Adaweya and Nahda Square, calling it a “national and historical obligation”.
Last February, the General Prosecution referred 240 defendants to military tribunals over charges of storming a church in Minya.