Egypt court orders retrial of policeman jailed over protester\'s shooting

Friday 12/02/2016
Her killing has triggered outrage in Egypt and abroad

CAIRO - Egypt's top court on Sunday annulled a 15-year jail sentence for a policeman accused of the fatal shooting of a female protester and ordered his retrial, a court official said.

Shaima al-Sabbagh was struck by birdshot in January 2015 as police dispersed a small march on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the uprising that toppled president Hosni Mubarak.

A lower court sentenced Lieutenant Yassin Mohamed Hatem, 23, to 15 years in prison after convicting him of "battery that led to death".

Hatem's trial was a rare legal proceeding against policemen charged over protestor deaths since the army's ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

On Sunday, the Court of Cassation annulled the lower court's order after accepting an appeal filed by Hatem and ordered a retrial, a court official said.

His lawyer Gamil Sayid confirmed Sunday's decision.

"It just proves that my client was innocent from the start," Sayid said, adding that Hatem, who is currently in jail, would soon be freed.

The Court of Cassation did not immediately give its reason for annulling the previous judgement and a new trial date has yet to be fixed.

Sabbagh's death triggered outrage in Egypt and abroad. Part of the incident that led to her death was captured on film, prompting President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to publicly demand that the perpetrator be brought to justice.

Sabbagh was hit on January 24, 2015 on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the anti-Mubarak uprising when police dispersed a peaceful protest that had been organised by her Socialist Popular Alliance, a small leftist party.

Marchers had been carrying a wreath to a monument in Cairo's Tahrir Square to commemorate the deaths of protesters during the 2011 revolt.

Tahrir Square was the epicentre of that uprising and the scene of violent confrontations between police and protesters.

Dozens of policemen were tried for protester deaths after the revolt against Mubarak, which had been partly fuelled by police abuses. But most were acquitted.

Rights groups have accused the police of killing hundreds of mostly Islamist protesters after Morsi's ouster, including around 700 in one day in August 2013 during clashes when they dispersed a pro-Morsi Cairo sit-in.

A crackdown launched by authorities on Morsi supporters has also seen thousands jailed and hundreds sentenced to death in mass trials.