By Sushila Rao
In what Egyptian activists condemn as the latest in a series of acquittals and lenient sentences for policemen accused of the deaths of hundreds of protesters during the 2011 uprising, a court in Egypt has handed down suspended one-year sentences to 11 policemen accused of killing 22 protesters and wounding 44 others on 28 January 2011—the deadliest day of the uprising, also called the ‘Friday of Rage.’ The suspended sentences mean the 11 convicted policemen will not have to undergo any prison time at all.
Judge Sabri Hamed ruled that the policemen had a legitimate right to self-defense when a mob pelted their station with rocks and firebombs. However, he held that they had used excessive force in countering the threat, since those killed included some who were in their homes a distance away. He also acquitted three other police officers of any wrongdoing. They were exonerated on the same day as the Supreme Military Court sentenced two civilians to death for killing an army officer.
Relatives of the dead protesters have expressed outrage at the verdict. Nearly 900 protesters are said to have lost their lives during the protests last year. Dozens more have allegedly been killed since the collapse of Hosni Mubarak’s regime in February 2011, and the ascendancy of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. A key demand of the protest movement has been accountability and justice for these killings. Protesters have regularly taken to the streets to denounce the ruling military, accusing it of violating human rights and cracking down on dissent.