19 Egyptians jailed for joining religious sect

Nineteen are guilty of having adhered to doctrine of sect leader who declared himself ‘prophet of our time’.

CAIRO – A court here Wednesday sentenced 19 Egyptians to one year in prison each for having joined an extremist religious sect, overturning a previous ruling of suspended jail terms.

The High State Security Court issued its verdict after President Hosni Mubarak asked the court to reconsider the case of the 19 who were each given a one-year suspended jail term in another chamber of the same court in 2002.

The court immediately ordered the 19, who were not present in court, to be arrested and begin serving their jail terms.

The 19, including two women, were arrested in March 2002 before they were sentenced in September of that year.

The group’s leader Sayyed Tolba was at the time sentenced to three years in jail, while another member of the group, Gamalat Suleiman, was given a one-year prison term.

The presiding judge, Gamal Badran, said Wednesday that the 19 were guilty of “having adhered to the doctrine of the sect leader, supported him and together practiced his extremist ideas,” the AFP correspondent said.

Tolba, 48, a civil servant with the Egyptian Atomic Energy Authority, had declared himself “prophet of our time” and said he had powers to cure “incurable illnesses.”

He claimed to have received letters signed by God and to be able to speak to the angels.

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