Middle East

Egypt policeman jailed over death of activist Shaimaa al-Sabbagh

Activist Shaimaa al-Sabbagh holds up a poster at a protest in Cairo shortly before her death (24 January 2015) Image copyright AP
Image caption Shaimaa al-Sabbagh was a member of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party

A court in Egypt has sentenced a policeman to 15 years in prison over the killing of an unarmed female activist in Cairo in January.

Lt Yassin Hatem Salahedeen was found guilty of the manslaughter of Shaimaa al-Sabbagh, who was hit in the back with birdshot at a peaceful protest on the anniversary of the 2011 revolution.

Her death was caught on camera and caused a worldwide outcry.

The interior ministry initially denied police involvement in her death.

But in the face of mounting pressure, President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi referred to Sabbagh as "my own daughter" and promised that those responsible would be held accountable.

Image copyright AFP / getty images
Image caption The image of a protester cradling a dying Shaimaa al-Sabbagh has become iconic

Sabbagh, 32, was the mother of a five-year-old boy, a published poet, and a member of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party.

On 24 January, she was walking with friends to Cairo's Tahrir Square to lay a wreath in memory of the 2011 revolution that toppled President Hosni Mubarak when masked police fired on the group with tear gas and birdshot.

Footage showed her collapsing to the ground and being cradled by a friend.

Seventeen people who were at the protest with her were arrested and charged with taking part in an illegal demonstration, but they were acquitted last month.

Egypt's policing of protests has been a recurring source of criticism, with 1,150 protesters alone killed in a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood in July and August 2013 after the military overthrew President Mohammed Morsi, activists say.

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