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Egypt court says Sufi group denigrated Islam

CAIRO, Egypt (Reuters) -- A Cairo state security court on Tuesday sentenced a woman who said she was the leader of a Sufi sect to five years in jail with hard labor, court sources said.

They said the woman, known as Sheikha Manal, was found guilty of denigrating religions by "claiming prophecy and using the Islamic religion to propagate extremist ideas."

The court said she distorted Islam by claiming to have visions from her deceased uncle, the founder of a Sufi sect, which contained instructions to her followers that flouted basic Islamic tenets.

They included forgoing daily prayer, pilgrimage to Mecca and the belief that Prophet Mohammad was the last Muslim prophet.

Sufis are Muslim mystics and Sufi orders are widespread in Egypt, but traditionally frowned upon by the mainstream religious establishment.

Three of her followers were jailed for three years with hard labor, seven received one year's hard labor. Two women were sentenced to six months in prison, and two other women received fines of 1,000 pounds ($280).

One of the group of 16, arrested in the old Cairo quarter of Sayeda Zeinab last November, died in detention.

The verdicts can only be appealed via a petition to President Hosni Mubarak because the trial, which began in May, was conducted under Egypt's emergency laws in place since 1981.

Copyright 2000 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.



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