Court hands policemen suspended sentences for killing protesters

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CAIRO: An Egyptian court has given suspended, one-year sentences to 11 policemen accused of killing 22 protesters and wounding 44 others in Hadayeq El-Qobba during last year’s uprising.

Judge Sabri Hamed acquitted three other policemen during a court hearing in Cairo held under tight security Tuesday. Victims’ families rejected the verdict and vowed to avenge their deaths.

Sabri said the defendants had a legitimate right to self-defense when a mob pelted their station with rocks and firebombs but that they used excessive force in dealing with the threat.

The verdict is the latest in what activists claim to be a pattern of acquittals and light sentences for policemen blamed for the deaths of hundreds of protesters during the 18-day uprising that toppled longtime leader Hosni Mubarak.

The ruling, carried by the official news agency MENA, said the crowd outside the police station in Cairo’s Hadayeq El-Qobba district were genuine protesters, but they were later infiltrated by a “misled minority” that attacked the police.

The killings took place on Jan. 28, 2011, the deadliest day of the uprising. On the same day, thousands of convicts escaped from prisons across the nation, and scores of police station were ransacked. The attackers made off with firearms and ammunition.

Sabri said the police at Hadayeq El-Qobba station could not request backup because of the chaos everywhere in the city, and that it would have been “cowardly” if they were to surrender to their attackers.

“The right of self defense here is legitimate, but the defendants exceeded that right with good intentions,” Sabri said. “This is shown by the use of so much ammunition and the large number of killed and wounded. Their gunfire killed and wounded many persons far from the station and inside homes and buildings facing it. That amounts to exceeding the boundaries of legitimate self defense.”



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