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Egypt court convicts police in absentia for protester deaths

An Egyptian court on Tuesday convicted five police officers in absentia for the death of protesters last year and sentenced each to 10 years in prison. The men were charged with killing protesters during the 2011 revolution. The conviction was a victory for victims' families who have seen many police acquitted on similar charges. Nearly 200 police officers and government officials, including former president Hosni Mubarak [Al Jazeera profile; JURIST news archive], have been charged in connection with the deaths of at least 846 protesters, but acquittals have been common. Last week, 14 police officers were acquitted [JURIST report] on similar charges. Out of 10 cases, there have been nine acquittals [AP report] and one suspended sentence, causing some critics to accuse authorities of failing to pursue justice for the victims. The verdict in Mubarak's case is due next month.

Egypt has been heavily criticized for the way it treated protesters during the Egyptian revolution. Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch [advocacy websites] released reports that protesters had been tortured and improperly detained [JURIST reports]. AI has also criticized the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) [NYT backgrounder], stating that human rights violations against protesters committed by the SCAF may be equal to those committed under Mubarak. Egyptians will elect a new leader next week.

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