Egyptian police officer accused of killing activist gets 7-year sentence

Adham Youssef
3 Min Read
Socialist Popular Alliance member carries Shaimaa al-Sabbagh who was killed as police broke up their march in downtown Cairo, Egypt 24 January 2015

The Cairo Cassation Court has reduced the sentence of Central Security Forces officer Yassin Saleh to seven years, for his role in the 2015 death of socialist activist Shaimaa Al-Sabbagh.

Saleh stood accused of shooting Al-Sabbagh dead as she took part on 24 January 2015 in a peaceful march to commemorate those who died during the 25 January Revolution.

The officer had originally been sentenced to a 15-year prison sentence, although this was reduced to 10 years in a retrial.

Al-Sabbagh was a member of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party (SPAP), and was shot dead on the fourth anniversary of the 25 January Revolution.

Her death occurred during a march organised by the party near the 25 January Revolution’s epicentre in Tahrir Square. The police immediately dispersed the group using birdshot and teargas, which resulted in her injury and death.

Her death sparked public anger against police violence. The subsequent prosecution of SPAP members on charges of violating the Protest Law and eyewitness accounts of the events leading up to Al-Sabbagh’s death increased the outrage.

Reports by the Forensic Medicine Authority, as well as video evidence of the incident and prosecution authorities’ investigations, revealed that the officer had fired birdshots from a rifle designated for tear gas canisters. This was despite the Ministry of Interior’s denial of using birdshots, which was widely viewed as attempts to cover up for the crime.

In the case’s first hearing, the prosecutor said “security forces are responsible for the protection of people’s lives, not bloodshed and endangering their physical safety. Al-Sabbagh died because those who vowed to protect her life decided not to.”

He continued by recounting what he described as “absolute facts and evidence”, according to the logical development of events. The facts were that security forces immediately dealt with the march, which did not exceed 30 people, using tear gas and birdshots resulting in Al-Sabbagh’s death.

The prosecution said that despite the defendant’s initial denial, intensive cross-examinations and analysis of video footage, assisted by experts from the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, provided definite evidence against him.

Additionally, the prosecution relied on the testimony of a taxi driver who appeared in the video and who was brought in for questioning.

The prosecution based its accusations on the Forensic Medicine Authority’s report, which asserted that Al-Sabbagh’s death was caused by birdshots. This came in addition to criminologists and experts, who established that birdshots could be loaded into rifles used for tear gas bombs.

Their report, along with investigations by firearm and distance experts led the prosecution to make its final claim, that Saleh intentionally and voluntarily loaded his rifle, shot, and killed Al-Sabbagh. Al-Sabbagh, originally from Alexandria, is survived by her husband and son.

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