Egypt clashes at trial of security officers

Jan 19, 2013, 10:11 AM EST
A protester waves a flare during a rally in Tahrir Square, in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Jan. 18, 2013.
(AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

CAIRO (AP) — Riot police fired tear gas Saturday to disperse demonstrators throwing stones outside an Alexandria courtroom where the city's ex-security director and other officers are on trial for the killing of protesters during Egypt's 2011 uprising.

Mohammed Ibrahim, the former security director of the Mediterranean coastal city, faces trial along with five other police officers for taking part in excessive violence against protesters during the revolt that ousted Hosni Mubarak.

Dozens of demonstrators had gathered outside the courthouse to express anger over what they see as a lack of accountability for the killing of protesters. Those who took part in the uprising say the nation's legacy of police impunity and the use of brute force by security agencies cannot be ended without real reform.

Activists and family members of those killed in Alexandria during the uprising led the demonstration outside the courtroom ahead of the start of Saturday's trial. Most of their slogans focused on the police but it was not immediately clear how the clashes broke out. There were no immediate reports of injury.

Nearly 100 police officers have been brought to trial in a string of cases since Mubarak was deposed on Feb. 11, 2011. All were acquitted or received suspended sentences on charges of killing and wounding protesters.

Out of more than 900 people killed nationwide in the anti-Mubarak protests, some 300 people were reportedly killed in Alexandria during the 18-day revolt. Mubarak and the former interior minister were sentenced to life in prison for failing to stop the killings, and were granted a retrial this month.

The father of 16 year-old Mohammed Ahmed, who was shot dead by police in Alexandria, said the loss of his son still shocks the family and has taken a toll on him.

"Imagine spending 18 years wanting a son and finally having Mohammed," said Ramadan Ahmed, a retired naval officer. His son was shot in the head by police during clashes outside a police station on Jan. 28, 2011 the bloodiest day of the uprising.

Like many of those who lost loved ones during the uprising, Ahmed said he voted for President Mohammed Morsi, who had been imprisoned under Mubarak for his activities with the then-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group. Ahmed said he met with Morsi after he was elected last summer in the nation's first free presidential vote.

"I told him there must be justice for my son. He took the picture of Mohammed and another boy from Suez and kissed it. He asked to keep the pictures and was clearly affected."

But Ahmed said he does not expect the judge to find the officers on trial guilty.

"It is one long chain of corruption," he said. "No one alive will get their rights until these people who died do."

In another case involving protesters, an Egyptian criminal court invoked a presidential amnesty and dismissed charges against 379 people accused of taking part in deadly clashes with police.

The charges stem from nearly two weeks of street fighting on downtown Cairo's Mohammed Mahmoud street in November 2011 that left 42 people dead.

Young protesters, mostly die-hard soccer fans known as Ultras, led demonstrations against police near the Interior Ministry and Tahrir Square, the hub of Cairo's activist movement. They were demanding a timetable for the military officers who were then ruling the country to hand over power and hold presidential elections, and denouncing violent security crackdowns on sit-ins.