Saturday, December 31, 2011

Egypt court frees 5 police over protester deaths

Egypt court frees five police over protester deaths

DEC 29, 2011

CAIRO: An Egyptian court cleared five police officers on Thursday of criminal charges over the killing of five protesters during the uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak in February.

Families of the dead who attended the trial screamed in anger when the sentence was announced by Judge Essam Abdel Hamid. Police officers crowded outside the judge's office after the verdict to protect him.

"We demand that they (the police officers) are all sent to their deaths," shouted relatives of the slain protesters who had crowded into the courtroom to hear the sentences.

The police officers were ordered months ago to face trial over the killings, which took place in front of a police station on Jan. 28 and 29 as the uprising spread.

A statement explaining the judge's verdict was expected in coming days.

Around 850 Egyptians were killed in the revolt, when police fired live ammunition, rubber bullets, water cannon and tear gas at protesters. Police eventually abandoned the streets and the army moved in.

In May, a Cairo court sentenced a police officer in absentia to death on similar charges, opening the door for other cases to be brought.

Egyptians closely watch police trials for clues to whether the killings were isolated events or carried out under orders from senior officials. Many say Egypt will struggle to face the future until Mubarak's often brutal security forces are held to account.

Mubarak himself is on trial over protester deaths, as is the Interior Minister at the time of the uprising, Habib al-Adli, and other top security officers. Adli has already been sentenced to 12 years in prison for corruption.

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