Libya court sentences 23 to death for Islamic State campaign

Suspects sit behind bars during a judgment sentence against 56 defendants accused of joining Islamic State group (ISIS) in the court in Misrata, Libya, May 29, 2023. REUTERS/Ayman al-Sahili

MISRATA, Libya (Reuters) - A Libyan court sentenced 23 people to death and another 14 to life in prison on Monday for their role in a deadly Islamic State militant campaign that included beheading a group of Egyptian Christians and seizing the city of Sirte in 2015.

The Attorney General's office said in a statement that one other person was sentenced to 12 years in prison, six to 10 years, one to five years and six to three years while five were acquitted and three others died before their case came to trial.

Islamic State's Libyan branch was one of the militant group's strongest outside its original territory in Iraq and Syria, taking advantage of the chaos and warfare that followed a 2011 NATO-backed uprising.

In 2015 it launched an attack on the luxury Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli, killing nine people, before abducting and beheading dozens of Egyptian Christians whose deaths it featured in grisly propaganda films.

After gaining territory in Benghazi, Derna and Ajdabiya in eastern Libya, the group seized the central coastal city of Sirte, holding it until late 2016 as it enforced a harsh regime of public morality backed up by brutal punishments.

Mustafa Salem Trabulsi, head of an organisation for bereaved families of people killed or disappeared by the group said he had hoped that all the suspects would face the death penalty but he accepted the outcome.

"My son is missing and my relative, my brother-in-law, was murdered in Sirte Square," he said.

Speaking in court on Monday, Fawzia Arhuma said she welcomed the death sentences after her son was killed by the group at a power station near Sirte.

"Today my son raised my head. Today I buried my son," she said.

(Reporting by Ayman al-Sahily, writing by Angus McDowall, editing by Andrew Heavens and Giles Elgood)

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