[JURIST] Egypt’s Court of Cassation [official website, in Arabic] on Thursday ordered a retrial for four policemen facing accusations of involuntary manslaughter relating to the deaths of 37 prisoners [activist organization report] in a van outside the Abu Zaabal prison in 2013. The prisoners, arrested days before during peaceful protests in support of former president Mohamed Morsi [BBC profile], were being transported from the Nasser City police station to the Abu Zaabal prison on August 18, 2013, when the policemen in question allegedly fired tear gas into an overcrowded police van. The gas caused 37 of the 45 prisoners within the van to die from suffocation. A series of conflicting early reports indicated that the detainees were attempting to escape, rioting or being freed by an armed group. In March one of the policemen, Lieutenant Colonel Amr Farouk, was sentenced [Reuters report] to 10 years in jail and labor for involuntary manslaughter and extreme negligence. The other three officers, Ibrahim El-Morsi, Islam Abdel-Fattah and Mohamed Abdel-Aziz, were given suspended sentences. In June, those sentences were overturned [Daily News Egypt report] by a lower appeals court. The coming retrial will be the final trial for the policemen, as Egyptian law only permits two appeals.
Egypt has been plagued by violence and mass arrests, especially since the 2011 revolution [JURIST backgrounder] that ousted then-president Hosni Mubarak. Last month an Egyptian court convicted 40 supporters of former president Morsi for committing violence last year in the wake of Morsi’s ousting by the Egyptian military. Also last month Egypt’s top prosecutor referred [JURIST report] 439 individuals to a military tribunal for the killing of three police officers last year. Earlier last month 188 individuals were sentenced [JURIST report] to death over the murder of eleven Egyptian police officers. In October military tribunals sentenced [JURIST report] 23 activists to three years in prison for protesting without a permit, an act that violates a law enacted [JURIST report] in November 2013. Also in November an Egyptian court referred [JURIST report] five students from Al-Azhar University to a military trial over a violent protest in January when part of a campus building was torched.