The head of Egypt's lawyers' syndicate issued a statement on Friday afternoon declaring that syndicate members would not provide legal representation to any policeman – in any case – following clashes that erupted Friday morning between lawyers and police officers in and around Cairo's Nasr City Police Station.
"We refuse to represent any police officer currently facing charges," said syndicate head Sameh Ashour. If any lawyer did so, Ashour added, his syndicate membership would be revoked.
According to Egyptian state news agency MENA, the clashes were sparked after a lawyer assaulted a low-ranking police officer inside the police station. The altercation quickly escalated, MENA reported, triggering clashes between policemen who fired shots in the air and dozens of rock-throwing lawyers.
By the time the melee was over, 16 people – including eight policemen and eight lawyers – lay injured, two seriously.
Mohamed Othman, head of Egypt's lawyers syndicate for North Cairo, told Al-Ahram's Arabic-language news website that six of the injured lawyers had been released from Ain Shams Hospital with bruises and fractures, while the remaining two had suffered possible concussions.
Ahmed El-Ansary, vice head of Egypt's ambulance corps, told MENA that three ambulances had since been sent to the police station in the event of a resumption of clashes.
In the afternoon, hundreds of lawyers launched a sit-in protest outside the police station, where they set up a number of make-shift tents. Condemning what they describe as an "attack" by police on their colleagues, lawyers are demanding that policemen involved in the incident face criminal charges.
According to the syndicate's Ashour, the sit-in will continue until the interior ministry issues an official apology for what the syndicate head described as "a violation of lawyers' dignity." If lawyers' demands are not met in 24 hours, he declared, "We will call for mass protests to demand the removal of all corrupt policemen associated with the former regime."
Ashour has also called for the prosecution of all policemen involved in the incident and has threatened to launch mass demonstrations in front of police stations countrywide and the interior ministry's Cairo headquarters if the demands are not met within 24 hours.
A number of Egyptian policemen currently face charges of involvement in the murder of unarmed anti-regime protesters during last year's Tahrir Square uprising. Some have been acquitted, while others continue to face charges.
Ashour has also reportedly urged Egypt's public prosecutor, Abdel Meguid Mahmoud, to launch an urgent investigation into the cause of Friday's clashes. According to reports, the syndicate also intends to dispatch a delegation to newly-inaugurated President Mohamed Morsi to present him with their demands.
Several policemen, meanwhile, reportedly remain stuck in the Nasr City Police Station, which until now remains surrounded by protesting lawyers.
Security forces, meanwhile, are now deployed in the area amid relative calm.
Prosecutors, meanwhile, have reportedly opened investigations into the incident, gathering medical reports and taking testimony from both sides.
Nasr City residents, for their part, have expressed frustration with the recent events, urging Egypt's public prosecutor to put an end to the disruptions, which they say have paralysed their neighbourhood and resulted in property damage.