An Egyptian military court on Wednesday convicted 26 men accused of "planning attacks" inside Egypt and of being linked to Lebanese group Hezbollah.
Hezbollah was formed during Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982. It came out into the open as a mainly guerrilla group in 1985 but quickly began establishing social and medical networks in Lebanon.
The court sentenced the men -- who included Lebanese, Palestinians, Egyptians and one Sudanese -- to jail terms from six months to life. Some were convicted in absentia.
Among those tried was Sami Chehab, also named as Mohamed Youssef Mansour Ahmed, who received a jail term of 15 years. He was present in court, placed with the others inside a cage.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah last year confirmed Chehab was a member of the group, which has both political and military wings and is now part of Lebanon's government, but denied the man committed any crime. Nasrallah said Chehab was only helping equip Palestinians in their resistance against Israeli occupation.
Defence attorney Montasser Zayat said three of those convicted received life sentences, which he said in Egyptian law was equivalent to 25 years.
"This verdict is cruel and does not fit with the documents put forward," Zayat said. No appeal would be possible but President Hosni Mubarak would be able to reduce any of the sentences if he chose, he said.
Rights groups say Egypt has used "exceptional" courts like emergency and military courts to secure guilty verdicts and point to swift and often harsh sentences passed by the courts against Islamists in the 1990s.
Resistance by Hezbollah were instrumental in Israel's withdrawal from south Lebanon in 2000 after a 22-year occupation.
Israel attacked the group in 2006 that that cost Lebanon a heavy civilian toll but failed to defeat its guerrilla force on the ground.
Nasrallah, 49, has headed Hezbollah since 1992 when his predecessor, Abbas Moussaoui, was killed in an Israeli helicopter raid. The party has participated in the Lebanese government since 2005.
Hezbollah holds 10 seats in Lebanon's 30-member unity government formed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri.