A Cairo court sentenced 23 defendants to 14 years in high security prison Saturday for killing Shia leader Hassan Shehata and three other members of the dwindling Egyptian Shia Muslim community in June 2013, an incident that was videotaped and that sent shockwaves across the country.
Eight defendants, all of whom were also charged with attempted murder, were exonorated as family members of those found guilty received the verdict with hysterical screaming, according to Al-Ahram's Arabic news website.
In the attack, an angry mob led by Salafist sheikhs torched Shia residences in the small village of Zawyat Abu Musalam in Giza governorate, killing four citizens. Shehata was visiting one of the families in the village when the attack happened.
Extended video footage circulated online showing one of the victims being beaten and dragged through the streets. Eyewitness accounts say several members of the Shia community were stabbed multiple times in a brutal incident of public lynching.
Ahead of the attack, former Salafist parliamentarians had frequently expressed misgivings over ousted president Mohamed Morsi's plans to restore diplomatic ties with Shia-majority Iran and to encourage Iranian tourists to visit Egypt. One MP went as far as branding Shias "more dangerous than naked women" and a threat to national security.
As Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood announced a call for jihad in Syria at a solidarity conference on 15 June 2013, less than three weeks before he was ousted in July and eight days before the Zawyat Abu Musalam incident, an Islamist backer of the president denounced Shia Muslims as "unclean."