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Eight sentenced to death in Egypt

CAIRO — An Egyptian court convicted in absentia seven Egyptian Coptic Christians and a Florida-based American pastor on Wednesday, sentencing them to death on charges linked to an anti-Islam film that had sparked riots in parts of the Muslim world.

The case was seen as largely symbolic because the defendants, most of whom live in the United States, are all outside Egypt and are thus unlikely to ever face the sentence. The charges were brought in September during a wave of public outrage in Egypt over the amateur film, which was produced by an Egyptian-American Copt.

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The low-budget ‘‘Innocence of Muslims,’’ parts of which were made available online, portrays the Prophet Mohammad as a fraud, womanizer, and buffoon.

Egypt’s official news agency said the court found the defendants guilty of harming national unity, insulting and publicly attacking Islam, and spreading false information — charges that carry the death sentence.

Maximum sentences are common in cases tried in absentia in Egypt. Capital punishment decisions are reviewed by the country’s chief religious authority, who must approve or reject the sentence. A final verdict is scheduled on Jan. 29.

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