CAIRO: An Egyptian court on Saturday convicted two policemen in absentia, sentencing each to life in prison over torturing a detainee to death and injuring another, as part of a government crackdown on police abuses.
The policemen were convicted after the prosecution presented forensic testimony that detainee Ismail Abdel-Hameed was tortured to death in 2014, Judge Saeed Sabry said.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi vowed earlier this month to punish abusive policemen in the wake of November deaths of several detainees. The police’s history of excessive use of force was one of the main causes of the 2011 popular uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. Earlier this week, el-Sissi urged the public not to revive the memory of the revolt with protests.
The convicted policemen are on the run and were tried in absentia in the Nile Delta province of Tanta. If they surrender to authorities or give themselves up, under Egyptian law there would be a retrial. The two were also sentenced to an additional year in prison for the mistreatment of detainee Yasser el-Malah.
The two detainees – el-Malah and the deceased, Abdel-Hameed – were detained without cause during a street celebration of the birth of Islam’s Prophet Mohammed in Tanta last year, said Lawyer Mohamed Abdel-Aziz, one of the attorneys involved in the case.
At the police station, the policemen demanded the two sign statements confessing to a theft, Abdel-Aziz told The Associated Press. El-Malah, who later succumbed to the beatings and electric shocks, signed the confession, but Abdel-Hameed did not, the lawyer said.
The Egyptian police force has a reputation for padding arrest records.
Abdel-Aziz said the two policemen did not attend the proceedings against them “because they are scared,” and suggested collusion with local authorities because the defendants were “strangely released” prior to the court session.
“People accused of torture and murder are not usually released before trial,” he said.
This is the second case this month in which policemen facing similar charges had been “released” before trial and subsequently sentenced in absentia.
Police officials and the prosecution could not be immediately reached for comment on the lawyer’s allegations.