Egypt acquits fourth police officer in torture death case

Egypt acquits fourth police officer in torture death case
An Egyptian police officer jailed for torturing a detainee to death has been released from prison after a court acquittal.
2 min read
16 February, 2016
Police abuses were a major trigger for the 2011 revolt against Mubarak [AFP]

An Egyptian policeman has been released from jail after serving part of a life sentence for the torture and killing of a suspect.

An Alexandria court acquitted Colonel Hossam al-Shinnawi police officer on Tuesday, while a fifth suspect in the case is awaiting a verdict.

Shinnawi is the fourth officer acquitted in the murder case of Sayed Bilal, a suspect in a 2010 Alexandria church bombing who was tortured to death in custody.

The court decision comes amid growing international outcry against the Egyptian regime after an Italian man was found dead in Cairo with signs of torture on his body. 

Human rights groups have accused security forces in the country of frequently employing torture against political opponents.

The five men are former members of state security, and they were given separate retrials after a lower court found them guilty in 2012.

Shinnawi and three others were initially sentenced to life imprisonment, while another officer was handed a 15-year jail term.

The court did not immediately give its reason for Tuesday's order to acquit Shinnawi. 

More than 20 churchgoers were killed weeks before the 2011 uprising against former president Hosni Mubarak. 

A suicide bomber entered a packed church during New Year's Eve mass and detonated his explosives.

Police rounded up suspected Salafis, including Bilal, who were said to have taken part in protests against the Coptic Church.

The Islamists had accused the church of detaining a woman Muslim convert.

Bilal's badly bruised body was returned to his family a day after his arrest over the church attack, rights activists said at the time.

His lawyer criticised Tuesday's judgement.

"Today, the policemen have no accountability and are safe from any punishment," said Ahmed al-Hamrawi.

Police abuses were a major trigger for the 2011 revolt against former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. 

Dozens of policemen were tried for the death of protesters after the revolt against the regime, but most were acquitted.

In recent months, six policemen have been jailed in separate cases of deaths in custody.

In December, Sisi warned police officers that if they were found guilty of "committing mistakes" they would be brought to justice.

However, human rights groups and activists say torture and killings in custody continue.