Thursday,19 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1238, (19 - 25 March 2015)
Thursday,19 July, 2018
Issue 1238, (19 - 25 March 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Murder charges laid

A policeman charged with the killing of activist Shaimaa Al-Sabbagh is to go on trial, reports Ahmed Morsy

Al-Ahram Weekly

Prosecutor-General Hesham Barakat has referred a Central Security Forces police officer to criminal prosecution — meaning, he will stand trial — after he was charged with the shooting death of activist Shaimaa Al-Sabbagh.

Al-Sabbagh, a 32-year-old political activist, was shot dead in central Cairo in January, sparking a domestic and international outcry. She was taking part in a march, led by the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, with 20 other activists.

They had gathered in Talaat Harb Square on the fourth anniversary of the 2011 revolution and were walking to Tahrir Square to lay flowers in memory of protestors killed during the 18-day uprising that toppled president Hosni Mubarak.

In a statement released Tuesday, the prosecution said Al-Sabbagh, a member of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, was shot by a Central Security Forces officer whose name has not been disclosed. The prosecution also accused the officer of inflicting “intentional injury” to other protesters.

The prosecution said an investigation had shown that Al-Sabbagh died from “light birdshot” that a Central Security Forces officer fired at her and other protesters. “This caused the injury that led to her death and injured other protesters,” the statement said.

Al-Sabbagh’s death led to local and international criticism, with many accusing the security forces of using excessive force in dispersing what was a peaceful march. Commenting on Sabbagh’s death, the New York-based Human Rights Watch said there was a need in Egypt “for an independent investigation into the authorities’ excessive use of force.”

Several political parties and activists called for the removal of then-Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim, accusing him of condoning police violence.

Khaled Dawoud, spokesman of the Constitution Party and one of leaders of the Democratic Current alliance, praised the decision to refer a policeman to criminal court.

“We [Al-Dostour Party and the five other parties of the Democratic Current] salute the decision as it re-establishes the principle of accountability within the Interior Ministry,” Dawoud told Al-Ahram Weekly, adding that it was a positive step forward and a “return to confidence.”

“At the time of Al-Sabbagh’s death, the Democratic Current announced five demands, of which two were met,” Dawoud said.

“The two demands were the resignation of the former interior minister Mohamed Ibrahim and a transparent investigation, followed by announcing the results to the public after the frustrating decision of ordering a media gag on the case.

“The three other unmet demands are the reformation of the Interior Ministry, amending the controversial protest law and implementation of [President] Al-Sisi’s promise to release youth protesters who were imprisoned because of the protest law.”

The prosecution had referred members of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, which organised the protest, to criminal court for violating the 2013 protest law which outlaws unauthorised demonstrations.

“We are keen to create a positive atmosphere in the political scene ahead of the parliamentary elections. The release of the imprisoned youths, whom Al-Sisi promised on many occasions to free, will further improve the political climate,” Dawoud added.

The Socialist Popular Alliance accused the police of “premeditated murder” while police officials denied that security forces had a role in Al-Sabbagh’s death. Ibrahim had countered that security forces do not carry weapons at peaceful protests, except for tear gas canisters.

Ibrahim also expressed his condolences to the family of Al-Sabbagh and promised that if investigations showed that a member of the security forces was behind her death, “I will send him to court myself.”

Ibrahim, who was eventually replaced in a cabinet reshuffle earlier this month, had also said that he respected the investigation into the incident and that he had been cooperative with the prosecution. Following the start of the investigation in January, the prosecutors ordered a media gag on the case.

In a speech in February, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi promised that whoever was responsible for Al-Sabbagh’s death would be held accountable, describing the dead woman as “a daughter.” Al-Sisi also directed Ibrahim to update him on the investigation, to which Ibrahim had replied that the perpetrator would be punished according to the law.

Separately, the general prosecution on Tuesday said that the Muslim Brotherhood and Zamalek’s hard-core fan group called the White Knights were behind the football disaster that killed 20 football fans last month.

“Their aim was part of a scheme to blight Egypt’s economic conference held in Sharm El-Sheikh this month,” the general prosecution said. The defendants are charged with acts of thuggery related to intentional murder, destruction of buildings and public properties, resisting authorities and possession of explosive materials.

The prosecution referred 16 people from both groups to a criminal court, and ordered the arrest of four defendants who are still at large. “The prosecution’s investigation proved that the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood, as part of its endeavours to bring down the pillars of stability of the country, used its relationship with cadres from the Zamalek club’s fan group, the White Knights [to instigate the incident],” the statement said.

Additionally, the prosecutor-general on Tuesday said that the death of political activist Mohamed Al-Gendi, a 28-year-old member of the Nasserist Popular Current Party, who was killed in mysterious circumstances in February 2013, was due to injuries caused by a hit-and-run car accident.

The prosecution had designated the case a “manslaughter misdemeanour”, temporarily shelving the case because his killer or killers could not be identified. It ordered police to carry out a probe to track down Al-Gendi’s assailants, a statement by the Egyptian prosecutor-general’s office said on Tuesday.

A forensic report stated Al-Gendi was brutally beaten and tortured after his lawyer challenged an initial report that claimed that his death was due to a car accident.

The Interior Ministry at that time denied accusations that he was tortured, saying in its report that Al-Gendi was found injured on the street after being hit by a car on 28 January and died later in hospital.

The prosecution on Tuesday said one of the witnesses in the case had falsely claimed that he saw Al-Gendi while being tortured by officers at a CSF camp, but then failed to guide prosecutors to the site.

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