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Egypt Sentences Alleged Terrorists

October 30, 1997

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ An Egyptian military court sentenced two brothers to death today, condemning them in a fiery attack that killed nine German tourists and an Egyptian bus driver.

``God is great!″ the brothers chanted after a judge read the verdict in the heavily guarded courtroom. Minutes later, one of the two men, Saber Abu el-Ulla, shouted, ``Jews, Jews, the army of Mohammed is coming back!″

The mother and three sisters of Saber and Mahmoud Abu el-Ulla burst into tears when news of the sentences reached them outside.

The men were charged with premeditated murder in the Sept. 18 shooting and fire-bombing of a tourist bus outside the Egyptian Museum, which houses some of the world’s greatest Pharaonic treasures.

The attack wounded 26 people and shook Egypt’s crucial tourist industry, on the rebound in recent years after past militant attacks drove away foreigners.

Six of seven co-defendants were found guilty on lesser charges of involvement in the attack, and sentenced to terms ranging from one year to 10 years in prison at hard labor.

Egyptian officials have denied the killings were linked to Islamic militants, who have fought since 1992 to topple President Hosni Mubarak’s government and replace it with strict Islamic rule.

Saber Abu el-Ulla, however, has said he sympathizes with the militants and would have joined them if he had the chance.

Both brothers pleaded guilty Oct. 18. But under the Egyptian judicial system, convictions and sentences are handed down at the same time, so further testimony was required for the three judges to determine the sentence.

The head of tribunal said the killings were the work of ``a bloodthirsty soul.″

``It’s as if Satan reincarnated himself to commit these acts,″ said the judge, who under military law cannot be identified.

The death penalty is usually carried out by hanging. Defendants in military trials can appeal only to the president.

Saber Abu el-Ulla initially said that he carried out the attack to avenge a cartoon drawn by a Jewish woman in Israel that depicted Islam’s Prophet Mohammed as a pig.

But in wide-ranging comments during the trial, he told reporters from inside a steel cage set up in the courtroom that he staged the attack to defend Islam and to punish Europe.

Saber Abu el-Ulla killed the tourists and bus driver soon after leaving a mental asylum, where he had been committed for killing two Americans and a Frenchman at a Cairo hotel in 1993.

It is not clear whether he escaped the asylum or was released. He has told reporters that his father paid the head of Egypt’s mental institutions $14,700 to get him certified mentally ill so that he could escape the death penalty in the 1993 killings.

The official, Sayed el-Qut, has been arrested.

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