Security forces clashed on Monday with political activists protesting during the second retrial session of the policemen accused of killing Khaled Said, the event that triggered the tidal wave of protests which led to the 25 January Revolution.
Activists gathered outside the Alexandria criminal court where the session was underway, chanting against the Ministry of Interior – the body responsible for police forces -- and denouncing the violence they say the ministry is regressing to.
In October 2012, the two defendants in the Khaled Said case were handed seven-year jail sentences on charges of illegal imprisonment and torture. The ruling was appealed in December 2012 and a retrial commenced.
A second session of the retrial took place Monday, sparking clashes where police used batons and water cannons to disperse protesters, chasing them down side streets where clashes continued. One protester was wounded in the head during the fight.
Police say they abide by the newly ratified protest law, widely seen by international and local rights groups as restrictive. The law requires a three-day notice before a gathering is held, which the Ministry of Interior can defer in case of "a threat to public order." Violators may serve heavy jail terms or pay stiff fines.
Last week, police fired tear gas and used water cannons to disperse protests by demonstrators of varying political affiliations. On one of the protests, Tuesday, staged by activists denouncing military trials for civilians, footage of the scene showed harsh police handling of protesters, dragging and assaulting some of them. Dozens of activists were arrested, 24 of whom remain in detention pending investigations on charges of "rioting."
The government says a law to organise gatherings is necessary in order to re-establish stability on the streets in the context of near-daily protests by Islamists supporting ousted president Mohamed Morsi which often result in clashes.