A criminal court in the city of Mahalla in Gharbeya resumed, Tuesday, the trial of nine police officers charged with murder, state-run newspaper Al-Ahram reported. In March 2013, four family members were shot dead by security forces at a security checkpoint, as officers were chasing wanted suspects in Mahalla.
According to a published copy of the official decision to transfer the suspects to court in April, the officers come from different departments and police institutions in the governorate.
The police said family were killed by mistake amidst an exchange of fire between security forces and armed suspects who had allegedly fired first. However, the court charged the police officers with first degree murder, adding that they planned and prepared for the crime using automatic rifles and guns.
Their first trial session was held in May, more than two years after the incident. The victims included a married couple and their child. They had other children, one of whom spoke to the media, demanding retribution for his family’s “unjust deaths”.
The court is charging the defendants according to articles of the Penal Code related to “prior intention and planning to kill”, which could incur death penalties and life prison terms.
Nonetheless, the case brings back the issue of “extra-judicial” killings by police and military forces, under the pretext of countering terrorism. The army announces on an almost daily basis the “execution” of “dangerous terrorist elements”, often displaying aerial pictures of their bombing operations.
This also applies to the police, who usually claim suspects were killed in fire exchanges. This statement was used in the controversial killing of Aim Shams University student Islam Ateeto, who was taken from in front of his university and was allegedly “killed in the chase” later on.
Furthermore, two similar incidents of “group killings” took place in Cairo and Fayoum, where security forces reportedly conducted a raid on the suspects’ houses. A new terrorism law was passed which allows security men the use of force against “suspects” without facing criminal charges.