Egyptian policeman sentenced to 15 years over killing of activist


An Egyptian criminal court sentenced a policeman to 15 years in jail on Thursday over the killing of a woman activist, a judicial source and the state news agency said.

The policeman had been charged in March with action that “led to the death” of Shaimaa Sabbagh, a lesser charge than murder, but still a rare action against a member of the security forces.

Sabbagh was shot in January at a march marking the anniversary of the uprising that ousted veteran ruler Hosni Mubarak in 2011. The public prosecutor said in March she had been killed by an officer who fired birdshot to try to disperse the protest.

The officer was identified by the state news agency as First Lieutenant Yaseen Mohamed Hatem.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, accused by critics of muzzling opponents, had responded to the fury over Sabbagh’s killing by referring to her as “my daughter” and “the daughter of Egypt”, and promised to bring her killers to justice.

Many hoped Mubarak’s fall would lead to greater freedom, but the government has cracked down hard on Islamists and secular activists since the army ousted Egypt’s first freely-elected president, Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood, in 2013.

Critics say the police, whose power waned as Mubarak fell, have made a comeback and now act with impunity, a charge the Interior Ministry denies. Nearly all the 100 policemen tried for killing protesters in the 2011 revolt were acquitted.

Critics say Sisi has returned Egypt to authoritarian rule on the pretext of clamping down on militants who have killed hundreds of soldiers and policemen since Mursi’s ouster.

The government denies rights abuses and says the Brotherhood is a terrorist group that threatens national security. The movement says it is committed to peaceful activism.