Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat has officially stated that a police officer fired birdshot on 32-year-old Shaimaa Al-Sabbagh and killed her, state TV reported.
Barakat refered the police officer to the criminal court on Tuesday on charges of manslaughter.
The accused officer, Mostafa Ahmed, is a lieutenant colonel from the Central Security Forces (CSF), according to defence lawyer Anas Sayed.
Sayed told Daily News Egypt Tuesday that a civil claim was also established to request compensation for Al-Sabbagh’s family.
Last week, the officer was reportedly released pending investigations. The Forensic Medicine Authority’s report confirmed that Al-Sabbagh died as a result of a birdshot to the back, leading to lacerations in the lungs and heart.
The case has been under a media gag, but the restriction has not prevented journalists and activists from commemorating her death and demanding justice. Egypt’s highest officials, including the president and prime minister, have spoken of the case.
President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi stated in a speech addressing the nation that any police conscript or officer involved in her murder would be punished. In an interview with state television on 26 January, two days after the killing, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb said: “Al-Sabbagh’s blood would not be squandered and perpetuators will be brought to justice unconditionally.”
A copy of the Prosecutor General’s report published in the media said that the officer was facing charges of manslaughter, and intentionally injuring other protesters.
“The defence team was told they would not get a copy of the case before it was referred to court,” Sayed said.
The lawyer added that the head of Qasr El-Nil prosecution refused to give defence lawyers a copy of the investigations, despite their being legally entitled to obtain all information related to the case.
The Socialist Popular Alliance Party (SPAP) decided to hold a march carrying flowers on January 24, moving from Talaat Harb Square in Downtown Cairo to Tahrir Square. The march was held in commemoration of the victims of the 25 January Revolution.
According to eyewitnesses, the police violently dispersed the march on the grounds that it was an illegal protest. Security forces shot at protesters, injuring Al-Sabbagh. The forces then chased her colleagues, who were carrying her, in a desperate search for medical help.
At the end, Al-Sabbagh was left to bleed to death at a nearby cafeteria, as police took the rest of the protesters into custody, according to several testimonies. Moreover, authorities turned eyewitnesses, who voluntarily went to testify, into suspects.
“Now we make sure that any person wishing to give a testimony goes in and out with us,” Sayed commented.
Sayed further explained that the case being labelled a ‘misdemeanour’ does not mean that the offence is a misdemeanour case. Rather, he said that in law, criminal cases are referred to by a code of the misdemeanour label. This means that the suspect is not facing a maximum prison sentence of three years stated in misdemeanours.
Former Minister of Interior Mohamed Ibrahim, who was in charge at the time, denied accusations. “Prosecution authorities were looking for the suspects among party members,” Sayed said, referring to the accusations lodged against Zohdy El-Shamy, vice-president of the SPAP.
Nonetheless, the Prosecutor General did not drop the charges against the party members, accused of breaching the Protest Law by not notifying authorities of the protest. Sayed also explained that the case has another lawsuit, related to the arrest of the party members during the protest.
In related events, the SPAP office in Alexandria was raided last Friday. “We submitted an official complaint regarding the matter to the Prosecutor General and are currently following up on it,” Sayed stated. “The two party members who were arrested were holding Al-Sabbagh’s hands during the protest on the day of the incident. They were released,” he continued.
Sayed said that one of them was injured in the hand from the birdshots fired towards Al-Sabbagh’s direction. Along with the other party member, their testimony incriminates the police officers dealing with the protest on that day.
The two eye-witnesses confirm that shots came from the side of the police, who were the only forces bearing arms in the incidents. However, they will not be able to identify the shooter because security forces were masked during the dispersal of the protest.
The Ministry of Interior’s press office denied the claims in a statement, maintaining that, in communication with the landlord, the police conducted a security check of the building, and an apartment, which they suggest was not clearly labelled as the headquarters of the party
The inspection was undertaken in response to reports from security guards in the area that groups of people were coming and going from the building. The statement from the ministry’s media centre said that the ministry carried out its law enforcement responsibilities impartially, without interfering with or discriminating on the basis of political activities.
However, an SPAP statement and numerous supporting signatories deplored the raid, stating that it happened as they were making preparations for a ceremony in memory of Al-Sabbagh.
The party alleged that a security raid was conducted as neighbours reported that they had seen a member of the party carrying a police communication device. The police damaged the office and arrest two party members in the process, they continued.
Signatories to the critical statement include the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, Al-Dostour Party, the Popular Current Party, Al-Karama Party, in addition to numerous significant political names and rights organisations, such as Political Science professor Amr Hamzawy and satirist Bassem Youssef.
The signatories also called for many reforms of the Interior Ministry and legislation, including a revocation of the Protest Law, the release of political prisoners, and improved anti-terror policing which discerns between genuine threats and the rightful actions of citizens.
It has been 52 days since Al-Sabbagh’s killing. The SPAP’s Facebook campaign is titled “Your crime will not go unpunished,” addressing the Ministry of Interior.