November 28, 2012 at 04:24 PM EST

An Egyptian court has convicted in absentia seven Egyptian Coptic Christians and a Florida-based American pastor and sentenced them to death on charges linked to an anti-Islam film that had sparked riots in parts of the Muslim world.

Egypt’s official news agency said the court found the defendants guilty Wednesday of harming national unity, insulting and publicly attacking Islam, and spreading false information. The charges carry the death sentence in Egypt.

The case was largely symbolic since the seven men and one woman are outside of Egypt and unlikely to travel to the country to face the charges. The trial was seen as an attempt to absorb public anger over the film, which portrays the Prophet Muhammad as a fraud, womanizer and buffoon.

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