[JURIST] An Egyptian court on Thursday acquitted a policeman convicted of torturing an Islamist to death over a church bombing. Mohammed Abdel Rahman al-Shimi was sentenced to 15 years in prison in June 2012 for taking part in the torturing of Sayed Bilal until he was dead. On appeal the verdict was overturned, and the retrial that resulted in Thursday’s verdict was ordered. The bombing occurred a few weeks before the 2011 uprising [JURIST backgrounder] against then-ruler Hosni Mubarak [BBC profile] when a suicide bomber detonated explosives outside a church outside Alexandria, killing more than 20 people. Police responded and arrested protesting Islamists, including Bilal. He was then tortured to death by al-Shimi and others, and his badly bruised body was returned to his family the next day. Police abuses were a major catalyst for the 2011 uprising, and such abuses have reduced drastically after Mubarak’s successor, Mohamed Morsi [BBC profile], was ousted by now President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi [BBC profile] in July 2013.
Egypt has faced a great deal of unrest and turmoil since the 2011 uprising, including a great deal of tension with the Muslim Brotherhood [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. Earlier this month an Egyptian court sentenced ex-president Morsi [JURIST report] and more than 100 others to death for their involvement in a mass prison break in 2011. Morsi was accused of conspiring with foreign militants to free Islamists during the mass prison breaks. Also in May the Cairo criminal court sentenced former president Mubarak [JURIST report] and his two sons to three years in prison on corruption charges. However, Mubarak and his sons had already spent three years in prison for other convictions, so they will most likely not have to serve out this three year sentence. In March an Egyptian court upheld a 10-year prison sentence [JURIST report] for two police officers who were convicted for torturing activist Khaled Said to death in 2010.