CAIRO (AP) — An Egyptian criminal court sentenced 23 people to 14 years in prison Saturday on charges of killing four Shiite men two years ago.
The four were beaten to death west of Cairo, when a crowd of angry villagers, including ultraconservative Salafis, surrounded the house of Shiite community leader Hassan Shehata, threatening to set it on fire if 34 Shiites inside did not leave the village before the end of the day, according to security officials. When they refused, villagers attacked them, dragged them along the ground, and partially burned the house, the officials said.
Shiites are a small minority in Egypt, which is largely Sunni. Christians make up about 10 percent of the population.
The attack came just days before Islamist President Mohammed Morsi was ousted from power by the military.
Judicial officials said that of the 23 sentenced to prison time, nine are currently in custody. The court also acquitted eight of the defendants in the same case, the officials said.
Also on Saturday, an appeals court granted a retrial for a top militant and 15 others accused of killing 25 Egyptian police officers in 2013.
Saturday's ruling overturns previous convictions ranging from a death sentence to 15 years in prison.
The attack in 2013 saw militants ambush two minibuses carrying off-duty police officers near the border town of Rafah, days after security forces killed hundreds of people in a crackdown on supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi at protest camps in Cairo.
Officials said the militants lined up the officers then shot them.
Authorities have said defendant Adel Habara, who previously was sentenced to death in this case, is a senior member of the Sinai-based militant organization Ansar Beit al-Maqdis. The group, however, did not claim responsibility for the 2013 attack.
All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.