Policemen convicted over protest deaths


CAIRO – An Egyptian court has sentenced five policemen to 10 years each in prison for their role in killing protesters in the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak, the first such convictions against a force that was blamed for hundreds of deaths.

One of the driving forces behind demonstrations that have erupted since Mr Mubarak was ousted in February last year has been anger that no officials or police have been held accountable for the deaths of more than 850 people during the uprising.

For many the failure to convict anyone indicates just how much of the old order is still in place and is protecting its interests. The transition overseen by generals who took over from Mr Mubarak has been punctuated by protests, violence and wrangling between the army and politicians.

The ruling was made yesterday in absentia, which allows the defendants to have a retrial. It came one day before Egypt’s first free democratic presidential vote and may raise the stakes for other security officials accused of having a role in the killings.

Mr Mubarak faces sentencing on June 2nd, accused of ordering the killing of protesters in Tahrir Square, a charge he denies.

Mohamed Darwish, one of three judges that convicted the five policemen, said two more were handed one-year suspended sentences and 10 others were acquitted. A year ago, another Cairo court sentenced a police officer to death in absentia for his role in the deaths, but the ruling was overturned later. – (Reuters)