Riots in Egypt After Release of Policemen Accused of Protest Killings

Posted July 4th, 2011 at 5:40 pm (UTC-5)
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Hundreds of Egyptians have attacked a courthouse in Cairo after a judge ordered the release on bail of 10 policemen charged with killing protesters during the uprising that forced President Hosni Mubarak from power earlier this year.

Police officials said Monday that family members of the victims attacked the courthouse and later blocked a major highway from Cairo to the city of Suez for hours before opening the road. Protesters then moved to inside Suez, where the protest deaths occurred.

The policemen were charged with killing 17 anti-government demonstrators and injuring at least 300 others during the 18-day uprising that ended on February 11. The court released seven policemen on bail and postponed their trials until September 14. Three are being tried in absentia.

The flashpoint city of Suez saw many deadly confrontations between tens of thousands of protesters and Egyptian security forces.

Tensions are running high in Egypt over the ruling military council's failure to hold accountable security forces involved in killing protesters during the revolution. Nearly five months later, only one policeman has been convicted in the deaths of more than 846 people killed in the government crackdown.

In Monday's court proceedings, guards had to separate the relatives of the victims and the families of the defendants even before the decision was read.

The Associated Press reported that after the judge ordered the policemen released on bail, the victims' families attempted to rush toward the defendants who were whisked out of the courtroom. A number of family members of the slain protesters tried to storm the judge's office but were blocked by soldiers guarding the building.

The news agency reported that after Monday's riots broke out, Egypt's Prosecutor-General Mahmoud Abdel-Meguid ordered the court's decision overturned in an attempt to defuse anger.

The release of the policemen is likely to fuel plans for a huge rally on July 8 to push for fair and speedy trials of former top security officials suspected of giving orders to shoot protesters during the uprising.