CAIRO: The Egyptian president on Friday called for a new law or amending existing legislations to hold police accountable for abuses after an incident the previous night in which an officer shot and killed a truck driver who was ferrying goods for him in downtown Cairo.
Egypt’s Interior Ministry said the shooting followed a dispute over the sergeant’s fare for the ride and described it as a “mistake.”
President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s call for new legislation came as hundreds joined the slain driver’s funeral in Cairo. Earlier in the day, disgruntled residents took to the streets, blocking some streets and surrounding a security headquarters building in protest.
Mourners chanted “police are thugs” as they marched behind the wooden coffin of the young driver, Mohammed Ismail. His fellow drivers said he was killed day in Cairo’s populous el-Darb el-Ahmar district. They said he was being insulted by the policeman, who then pointed a gun at his head and opened fire.
Videos posted by the el-Masry el-Youm news website showed tearful residents displaying bloodstained pieces of cardboard and saying the officer had verbally insulted the driver and when the latter objected, the policeman shot and killed the driver. Egypt state-run news agency said the policeman was arrested.
The incident highlighted ongoing tensions in Egypt over increasing police abuses. Last week, Egyptian doctors staged a large protest after police officers assaulted two emergency room doctors in a Cairo hospital. Last year, lawyers staged a strike after policemen tortured a lawyer to death inside a police station. After a series of incidents involving police abuses in November, el-Sissi offered an apology.
Human rights groups say that a culture of impunity among the Egyptian security forces has led to widespread police brutality. Trials are rare and when they do occur, sentences are usually appealed and subsequently reduced.
Unrestrained police abuses were also one of the main contributing factors in the 2011 popular uprising that ousted longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak from power.
Earlier this month, the body of an Italian student was found by a roadside in Cairo marked with cigarette burns and other signs of torture. Italy has demanded that those responsible be brought to justice. Egypt has dismissed suggestions its security services could have been involved.
On Friday, el-Sissi held a meeting with Interior Minister Magdy Abdel-Ghaffar during which he asked for legislative amendments that enable courts to hold police accountable for abuses.
“Powers given to members of security apparatus are meant, in the first place, to enable them to protect the lives, possessions, and interests of citizens,” el-Sissi was quoted by his spokesman Alaa Youssef as saying. “There should be a legal confrontation to such actions to act as a deterrent and to hold its culprits accountable.”
He added that such new laws or amendments will “fix the security performance on the Egyptian streets, to ensure that whoever violates the rights of citizens will be held accountable.”