Zeinhom Court adjourned Saturday until 4 July the retrial of 17 witnesses to the killing of protester and activist Shaimaa Al-Sabbagh.
Several of the 17 defendants were present at the courthouse, in light of which the presiding judge decided to postpone the case for defendants to attend.
The 17 individuals witnessed Al-Sabbagh’s killing in January when she was killed during a violent dispersal of a small 25 January 2011 anniversary demonstration by the Socialist Popular Alliance Party (SPAP).
While the Ministry of Interior initially denied outright responsibility for Al-Sabbagh’s death and suggested that armed Muslim Brotherhood members were to blame, witnesses maintained that it was birdshot from security forces that caused her death.
As the 17 witnesses attempted to submit evidence, they were charged under violation of the Protest Law, despite none of them being part of the demonstration. Azza Soliman, a prominent human rights lawyer, was at lunch in a nearby cafe when she observed the violent dispersal and was arrested when she went to give testimony to the Prosecutor General.
The defendants were initially acquitted on 23 May of the charges of protesting illegally. The court also ruled that there was no evidence of the prosecution’s claims that the defendants assaulted security forces. The current retrial began after the prosecution filed an appeal on the acquittal.
Meanwhile, a Cairo Criminal Court sentenced on Thursday police officer Yassin Salah Al-Din to 15 years in a maximum security prison on charges of beating Al-Sabbagh “that led to death”. The charge is considered less severe than murder.
“The sentence against Al-Sabbagh’s killer would serve justice, but past convictions of police have been reversed on appeal, meaning there has been zero accountability for killing protesters,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Nor has there been any accountability for those in charge of Egypt’s security forces, who are ultimately responsible for the widespread and systematic killings of protesters in Egypt over the past two years.”