CAIRO — An Egyptian court on Tuesday convicted three Islamists of killing a student this summer as he sat in a quiet park with his fiancée, sentencing them to 15 years in prison in a case that sparked fears of vigilantes trying to enforce strict religious mores.
The state-owned Middle East News Agency said the verdict was read out in a heavily-guarded courtroom in the Red Sea city of Suez, where 20-year-old Ahmed Hussein Eid was killed in June. According to security officials at the time, the three men argued with Eid for loitering in the park with a woman who was not his wife. One fatally stabbed him.
The aftermath of the 2011 overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in a popular uprising has seen a rise in the political power of ultraconservative Islamist groups, which won nearly 25 percent of the seats in elections for parliament over the winter. This, combined with a reduced police presence in many areas after the uprising, has raised concerns that self-appointed morality vigilantes will start flexing their muscles on the street.
Security officials said there was no concrete evidence linking the June 25 killing to any organized group, however. There have been reports of ultraconservatives trying to enforce male-female segregation in public transportation, but deaths linked to vigilantes remain rare.
The prosecution during the trial accused the three men of planning a premeditated attack on whomever who did not obey their orders, according to MENA. The three denied forming an organized group.