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Six of the men were present to be sentenced by the court in the Suez Canal governorate of Ismailia that borders Sinai, while another eight are still fugitives and were convicted in absentia.

The death sentences highlight the conflict between the government of President Mohammed Morsi, who hails from the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, and extremist networks like el-Tawhid wi el-Jihad, blamed for the deadly attack last year in northern Sinai’s el-Arish city.

The June 2011 attack against el-Arish’s main police station and a nearby bank killed a civilian and a number of police and military officers.


Catholic reformers slam’pay-to-pray’ decree

BERLIN — A Catholic reform group in Germany has criticized the country’s bishops for announcing that believers who refuse to pay religious taxes won’t be able to receive the Eucharist, become godparents or receive a church burial.

The bishops’ decree last week is part of an attempt to stem the steady flow of people who opt out of paying up to 9 percent of their income tax to their affiliated church.

The practice ensures Germany’s Catholic and Protestant churches receive more than $4 billion each annually.

The group “We Are The Church” said Monday that the bishops’ decree is “the wrong signal at the wrong time.” It called on the bishops to try to understand why people are leaving the Roman Catholic Church instead of threatening them with sanctions.


Defense chief proposes West Bank pullout

JERUSALEM — Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak called for a unilateral pullout from much of the West Bank in published comments Monday, saying Israel must take “practical steps” if peace efforts with the Palestinians remain stalled.

His comments appeared to put him at odds with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has resisted making any major concessions to the Palestinians in the absence of peace talks. Negotiations have been deadlocked for nearly four years.

Mr. Netanyahu’s office declined comment.

Mr. Barak’s proposal is unlikely to be implemented, at least in the near term. Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition is dominated by hard-liners who would be reluctant to embrace the plan.

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