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Cairo policeman jailed for 15 years over death of Shaimaa Sabbagh

Demonstrators in Cairo hold a picture of Shaima Sabbagh (centre) during a rally to protest her killing by police on January 24, 2015
Demonstrators in Cairo hold a picture of Shaima Sabbagh (centre) during a rally to protest her killing by police on January 24, 2015 Mohamed El-Sahed, AFP

An Egyptian court sentenced a policeman to 15 years in jail on Thursday over the killing of an unarmed female activist, state news reports said. Shaimaa Sabbagh's death in January was caught on camera and sparked a global outcry.

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

Sabbagh, a 34-year-old mother, was shot on January 24, 2015, at a march marking the anniversary of the uprising that ousted veteran ruler Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

The public prosecutor said in March that 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.

Haunting images of Sabbagh dying in the arms of another protester prompted worldwide indignation on social media and made her a symbol of police brutality.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi responded to the fury over her killing by referring to her as "my daughter" and a "daughter of Egypt", promising to bring her killers to justice.

Sisi’s government has cracked down hard on both Islamists and secular activists since the army ousted Egypt's first freely elected president, Mohamed Morsi 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 popular revolt have been acquitted.

Sisi’s critics say he has returned Egypt to authoritarian rule on the pretext of clamping down on the Islamist militants who have killed hundreds of soldiers and policemen since Morsi's ouster.

An Egyptian court in February sentenced 183 Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death over the killings of police officers during the 2013 unrest that followed Morsi's ouster.

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

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
 

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