Cairo - An Egyptian criminal court has sentenced to death 31 Islamists for their part in the June 2015 assassination of the country's top prosecutor, Hisham Barakat.
Saturday's ruling, pronounced by judge Hassan Farid, referred the case of the 31 to the country's top theologian to solicit his non-binding opinion on the death sentences, a formality followed by courts in the case of capital punishment.
The court will reconvene July 22 to reaffirm the death sentences and issue its verdict on the 36 other defendants in the case. Of the 67 defendants, 15 are at large.
Barakat is the most senior government official killed by Islamic militants since the 2013 ouster by the military of the Islamist Mohammed Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected president whose one-year rule proved to be divisive.