CAIRO: A police general and a conscript soldier were referred Wednesday to a criminal court over involvement in the killing a of political activist in Talaat Harb Square a day before the fourth anniversary of the January 25 Revolution, al-Masry al-Youm reported.
On Jan. 24, political activist Shaimaa al-Sabbagh, a member of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, was fatally shot during a peaceful demonstration. The prosecution has referred a police officer, whose name has not been disclosed, to a criminal court Tuesday.
A judicial official said Wednesday that police General Rabei al-Sawy and a policeman, who appeared in video footage of Sabbagh’s killing, were also charged with providing “misleading information” in their testimonies during the investigations as they deliberately denied that the police officer used a birdshot gun.
Sabbagh was participating in a protest heading to Tahrir Square to place wreaths in honor of the January 25 Revolution victims. To disperse the protest, which the Ministry of Interior stated was illegal, the police officer shot her in her back at a distance of 8 meters, causing “lacerations in the two lungs, heart and a massive hemorrhage in the chest,” according to a forensic medicine report.
Media gagged investigations
During the investigations, the General Prosecution imposed a media ban on the probes. However, the ban lifted when the defendants were referred to the criminal court Tuesday.
The banned investigation revealed that the police officer confessed that he was the police officer who appeared in the video footage and was masked. However, he denied the killing of Sabbagh by birdshots saying “the security forces opened only two gas bombs at the demonstrators.”
He added that he was tasked only with securing Talaat Harb Square, near Tahrir Square, with a number of the Central Security Forces (CSF) conscripts. He continued that there were civilians in the “the crime scene” who could have fired the birdshot.
The inquiries indicated that Saway, who appeared in the video, said that he was not charged to give orders to the CSF forces in the square.
The CSF forces and policemen who came under the investigations denied the use of birdshot guns and the identity of the charged police officers, saying “the security forces fired only two tear gas bombs at the protesters.
However, the forensic reports, civilian eye-witnesses, journalists, photographers, and taxi drivers confirmed that the man who fired the birdshot was a masked police officer. The prosecution’s decision of referring the defendants to a criminal court also based on the video footages and photos.
The prosecution accused the police officer of “causing murder” of Sabbagh not the charge of “deliberate killing.” In the Egyptian penal code, the maximum penalty of murder caused by other reasons is 10 years in prison, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) lawyer Ali Atef told The Cairo Post Thursday.
In March 2014, a police officer was sentenced to 10 years in prison and three other officers were sentenced to one year in jail over “causing murder” of 37 prisoners, allegedly belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, while they were being transported in a truck. The officers threw a tear gas bomb inside the truck and closed the doors, causing those inside to suffocate. None of the prisoners had been yet charged with a crime at the time of their death.
Atef added that the minimum punishment is a year in jail with the suspension of penalty execration “such as the case of Agouza police station security forces whom were sentenced to a year in prison without the penalty execution over killing number of peaceful protesters during Jan. 25 Revolution.”
Almost all policemen charged with killing hundreds of protesters during the 2011 uprising were acquitted on grounds of lack of evidence, or for self-defense.
A policeman was charged Wednesday with killing a Muslim Brotherhood supporter as he lay in his hospital bed in the Agouza Hospital, Youm7 reported.
Only two officers were given sentences, according to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. One of whom is Captain Tamer Refat, who was sentenced to five years in prison in September 2012 for shooting a woman on her balcony. A video filmed by her children was presented as damning evidence.
Additional Reporting by Hanan Fayed.