BEIJING (Reuters) - China sentenced two members of a banned religious cult to death on Saturday for the murder of a woman at a McDonald's restaurant after she refused an apparent attempt by the group to recruitment her, state media said.
The 37-year-old woman was attacked in May in the eastern province of Shandong by members of Quannengshen, the Church of Almighty God, which had preached that a global apocalypse would take place in 2012.
The case sparked a national outcry after it was revealed the woman was beaten to death for allegedly refusing to give her telephone number to members of the group.
The Yantai Intermediate People's Court sentenced Zhang Fan and Zhang Lidong to death for intentional homicide and gave another member of the group, Lu Yingchun, life in prison, the official Xinhua news agency said.
"Zhang Hang and Zhang Qiaolian, another two cult members, were sentenced to ten and seven years of jail terms respectively," Xinhua said.
The five defendants were tried in August.
The Quannengshen group, which originated in central Henan province, believes that Jesus was resurrected as Yang Xiangbin, wife of the sect's founder, Zhao Weishan, according to previous Xinhua reports.
Zhao is also known as Xu Wenshan, Xinhua has said, adding that the couple fled to the United States in September 2000.
In 2012, China launched a crackdown on the group after it called for a "decisive battle" to slay the "Red Dragon" Communist Party, and preached that the world would end that year.
The party brooks no challenge to its rule and is obsessed with social stability. It has cracked down on cults, which have multiplied in recent years. Demonstrations have been put down with force and some sect leaders executed.
In 1999, then-President Jiang Zemin launched a campaign to crush the Falun Gong religious group. It was banned as "evil cult" after thousands of practitioners staged a surprise but peaceful sit-in outside the leadership compound in Beijing to demand official recognition of their movement.
(Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Richard Borsuk)