The Khanka Misdemeanor Court ordered on Tuesday the postponement to 17 December the trial of four police officers believed responsible for the death of 37 prisoners on 17 August who were arrested after the Rabaa Al-Adaweya sit-in dispersal.
The prosecutor’s office ordered on 21 October the four-day preventive detention of the officers and refused a complaint issued against their detention by the interior ministry.
The prisoners were reportedly killed at midday after being arrested following the dispersal of the pro-Mohamed Morsi sit-in at Rabaa Al-Adaweya. According to reports, the 37 prisoners complained of inadequate ventilation, creating a disurbance which prompted the police officers to fire a teargas canister inside the vehicle, killing them.
The trial began at 10am, with the accused appeared wearing prison uniforms. After proving their attendance, attorneys representing the right to civil claim and the families of the 37 victims requested that the court refer the case to the Felonies Court instead of the Misdemeanor Court “due to the defendants committing first degree murder.”
The judge ordered that the trial be postponed to allow the defendants the chance to be informed of the civil claims raised by lawyers defending the victims, and in response to the request by lawyers representing the defendants to review records from the Heliopolis Police Station, containing the names of the victims.
The prosecutor’s office decided to charge the officers with manslaughter instead of first degree murder. The Egyptian Penal Code states that the penalty for manslaughter of three or more persons due to on-the-job negligence is a maximum of ten years in prison.
Ahmad Al-Deeb, brother of Mohamed Al-Deeb, one of the victims, claimed that “many deaths also occurred from extensive torture during the time at the Heliopolis Police Station” adding that when he saw his own brother at the coroners and through confirmation of a medical doctor present, he had electrocution marks, burn marks, bruises, a wound in his torso.
Al-Deeb said that he does not believe that the “death was only due to the tear gas canister fired, but because of 43 tortured people being stacked in a vehicle with no ventilation for nine hours in the scorching sun” claiming that “the story of the officer being held within the vehicle is false, as they were all shackled within the vehicle.”
The Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights said in a statement that the organisation called the public prosecution’s attempt to try the officers accused of killing 37 members of the Muslim Brotherhood “extremely important,” as it “confirms the Egyptian judiciary’s desire to sanction any person who violates human rights.”