Egyptian Court Reverses Policeman’s Sentence for Killing Activist

Members of security forces keep watch in Tahrir Square before the fifth anniversary of the January 25 uprising in Cairo. A policeman charged with the killing of an activist last year has had his 15-year jail sentence reversed. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

CAIRO, Feb 14  – Egypt‘s highest court reversed on Sunday a 15-year jail sentence handed down by a lower court to a policeman for killing an activist in the street, judicial sources said, overturning a rare sentence against members of security forces.

First Lieutenant Yaseen Hatem was charged last March with action that “led to the death” of Shaimaa Sabbagh, a lesser charge than murder but still a rare action against a member of the security forces. He will now face a retrial.

Sabbagh was shot in January 2015 at a march marking the fourth anniversary of the uprising that ousted veteran ruler Hosni Mubarak in 2011. The public prosecutor said in March she had been killed by an officer who fired birdshot to try to disperse the protest.

President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, accused by critics of muzzling opponents, had responded to the fury over Sabbagh’s killing by referring to her as “my daughter” and “the daughter of Egypt” and promised to bring her killers to justice.

Many hoped Mubarak’s fall would lead to greater freedom, but the government has cracked down hard on Islamists and secular activists since the military ousted Egypt‘s first freely-elected president, Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood, in 2013 following mass protests against his rule.

Critics say the police, whose power waned as Mubarak fell, have made a comeback and now act with impunity, a charge the Interior Ministry denies. Nearly all the 100 policemen tried for killing protesters in the 2011 revolt were acquitted.

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