Egyptians react outside a court in Minya after 683 people were sentenced death. Photo: AFP
Cairo: An Egyptian court that sentenced to death 37 Islamists and handed life terms to 492 others has defended its verdict, saying the men were "demons" who followed Jewish scripture.
The court in the central city of Minya had triggered international outrage earlier this year for sentencing to death hundreds of alleged supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Mursi in two separate mass trials which only lasted minutes.
An Egyptian woman outside court in Minya after 683 alleged Islamists were sentenced to death. Photo: AFP
In one trial in March, 529 were sentenced to death for the killing of a police officer but the court later upheld the sentencing against only 37 of them, while the rest were jailed for life.
In a statement on Sunday to justify its decision, the court said: "The accused came out of the depths of hell ... to plunder Egypt's wealth, tyrannise its people and they killed the deputy commissioner."
It described the men as "enemies of the nation" who used mosques to promote the teachings of "their holy book, the Talmud", a central text of Judaism.
Death sentences were handed down to people accused of involvement in the murder and attempted murder of policemen in Minya. Photo: AFP
The military toppled Mursi in July last year following mass protests against his year in power, and security forces launched a crackdown on his supporters, killing hundreds and arresting thousands more.
In April the same court in Minya handed the death penalty to 683 people it said were supporters of Mursi, accusing them of murder and the attempted murder of policemen.
Judges are due to confirm the 683 death sentences on June 21.