The burnt and destroyed Evangelical Church are seen in Mallawi at Minya governorate, about 245 km (152 miles) south of Cairo August 17, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer
CAIRO, Mar 2 (Aswat Masriya) - An Egyptian military court handed down prison sentences to 117 purported members and supporters of the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group, on Wednesday.
The defendants were sentenced in two separate cases to prison sentences ranging from five to 10 years for incidents of violence that took place in the Upper Egyptian province of Minya, dating back to August 2013 when Egyptian security forces dispersed two encampments set up to show support for ousted president Mohamed Mursi.
In one case, 106 defendants, some of whom were being tried in absentia, were convicted of breaking into a church in the village of Delga. The other 11 defendants were sentenced to prison for blowing up an electricity pylon.
The cases were referred to the military judiciary after the defendants were accused of joining a banned group, participating in violence and riots and of breaking into and vandalising public property.
On Oct. 27, 2014 Egypt issued a law that expands the scope of putting civilians on trial before military courts, including crimes committed against the state's public and "vital" facilities.
It was passed days after the death of at least 33 security personnel in militant attacks in Sinai on October 24 but was heavily criticised by human rights organisations for expanding the jurisdiction of military tribunals for civilians.
The "No Military Trials for Civilians" advocacy group said in a statement today that "through that law, thousands of civilians were referred to military prosecution, including hundreds of university students."
The group added that military trials "actually increased in frequency substantially under the guise of the war on terror" after the constitution was passed in 2014. The advocacy group has for years been calling for an end to military trials of civilians, saying that they lack the basic guarantees to a fair trial.
Egypt listed the Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation in December 2013 and insists it is behind the wave of militancy which has targeted security personnel since July 2013.
The Brotherhood continuously denies the accusations.