CAIRO A Cairo court on Wednesday sentenced to death seven Egyptian Christians tried in absentia for participating in an anti-Islam video that was released on the Internet in September and prompted violent protests in Muslim countries.
"The seven accused persons were convicted of insulting the Islamic religion through participating in producing and offering a movie that insults Islam and its prophet," Judge Saif al-Nasr Soliman said.
The low-budget video, produced privately in California, denigrated the Prophet Mohammad and triggered anti-U.S. protests and attacks on Western embassies around the Muslim world.
The convicted persons included Egyptian-American Nakoula Bassely Nakoula, who is currently serving a one-year-jail term in Los Angeles after an American court convicted him of probation violations that stemmed from his role in the movie.
The 13-minute video portrays the Prophet Mohammad as a fool and a sexual deviant, although cast members have said they were misled into appearing in a film they believed was an adventure drama called "Desert Warrior."
Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church did not issue an official comment on the ruling.
"The Church denounced the movie, which it has nothing to do with. As for today's case, it is a court ruling and the Church does not comment on court decisions," said a Church source who asked not to be named.
Christians make up around 10 percent of Egypt's 83 million people and many complain of discrimination in work and treatment.
(Reporting and writing by Yasmine Saleh; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Jason Webb)
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