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Egypt court overturns policeman's conviction in protester's death

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Members of the Egyptian police special forces patrol streets in al-Haram neighborhood in the southern Cairo Giza district on January 25, 2016. (AFP photo)

A court in Egypt has overturned the conviction of a police officer sentenced to 15 years for the 2015 killing of a female protester. 

On Tuesday, Taha Qassim, a judge at Egypt's highest appeals court, ordered a retrial of the officer, Yassin Hatem Salah Eddin, who was convicted in June last year.

A court in Cairo had handed down a 15-year jail term to the officer for killing 32-year-old female demonstrator Shaimaa al-Sabbagh. She died of birdshot wounds in clashes with police during an anti-government protest in Cairo’s central Talaat Harb Square on January 24, 2015.

The military-backed administration had initially denied that police had anything to do with the killing. The killing of the renowned leftist female activist stoked anger over alleged police brutality.

Leftist activist Shaima al-Sabbagh receives assistance after she was injured in clashes with police during an anti-government protest in Cairo, January 24, 2015. She later died of wounds. (AFP)

Rights campaigners have criticized stepped-up security measures and the unprecedented security crackdown on opposition members and supporters of former President Mohamed Morsi. Activists have also warned that the government has resorted to extrajudicial killings of supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood movement.

Morsi, affiliated with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood movement, was elected as the country’s president in 2012, but was ousted only a year later in a military coup led by the then army chief and current President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi.

Since the ouster of Morsi, thousands of anti-government protesters, mostly Brotherhood supporters, have been sentenced to jail in civilian and military courts. Cracking down on Morsi’s supporters, the country held mass trials in 2015, when it gave death sentences to many.

Rights groups say the army’s crackdown on the supporters of Morsi has led to the deaths of over 1,400 people and the arrest of 22,000 others, including some 200 people who have been sentenced to death in mass trials.

The UN Human Rights Council has repeatedly expressed concern over the Egyptian security forces’ heavy-handed crackdown and the killing of anti-government protesters.

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