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An Egyptian court has convicted 26 men of planning terrorist attacks in Egypt and of having ties with the Lebanon-based Islamist group Hezbollah.

They were charged with spying on ships in the Suez Canal, planning attacks on holiday resorts, and smuggling arms into the Gaza Strip.

The defendants claim they were helping besieged Gazans and the Palestinian resistance, but the court sentenced them to prison terms ranging from six months to life.

Sami Shehab, a Lebanese citizen who Hezbollah had confirmed to be a member, was given a life sentence.

Four suspects, who are still on the run, were tried in absentia and given life sentences.

The sentences were issued by the state security court in Cairo and cannot be appealed, reports say.

Was it a political trial, or was the sovereignty and stability of Egypt threatened? And what are the ramifications of the ruling?

Inside Story is joined by Hassan Issa, Egypt's former ambassador to Israel, Kamel Wazne, a political analyst, and Paul Salem, the director of the Carnegie Middle East Centre.

This episode of Inside Story aired from Thursday, April 29, 2010.

Source: Al Jazeera