Demonstrators carry a model of Shaimaa El-Sabagh during their protest in downtown Cairo, Thursday, January 29, 2015 (Photo: Mai Shaheen)
Egypt’s Socialist Popular Alliance party on Friday hailed a Thursday court ruling sentencing a police officer to 15 years in jail for killing one of its members as “a victory for justice and democratic forces in society”, the Ahram Arabic news website has reported.
Thirty-two-year-old mother and leftist activist Shaimaa El-Sabbagh died from birdshot wounds in January, after she was shot while marching peacefully with fellow party members towards Tahrir Square on the fourth anniversary of the 2011 uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
At a press conference on Friday, Socialist Popular Alliance party spokesperson Medhat El-Zahed said that the recent court decision proved that the party's demonstration to commemorate the 2011 revolution had been peaceful.
He said that the Socialist Popular Coalition party would call for putting on trial former interior minister Mohamed Ibrahim and the head of the security unit who ordered the shooting, accusing them of “lying”, “pretending security forces were not armed with birdshot” and “trying to hide the evidence”, according to Ahram Arabic.
In May, the lawyers in Al-Sabbagh's case had requested including Ibrahim, who was in charge when the killing occurred, as one of the defendants in the case.
Following the killing in Jaunuary, Ibrahim had told the press, “I don’t have anyone who sets off to a peaceful assembly with harmful weapons, except for teargas.”
The court’s Thursday decision also showed that the party's demands to amend Egypt’s protest law were justified, El-Zahed said, calling the law a "license for security apparatuses to commit violence against any protest, even if it is peaceful."
The protest law, issued on 24 November 2013 under former interim president Adly Mansour, mandates a minimum of three days notice to the interior ministry before holding demonstrations, with penalties of up to three years in jail for anyone who fails to obtain a permit. The law also grants the interior ministry the right to ban assemblies.
The party's vice-president Zohdy El-Shamy, who had was detained earlier this year under “suspicion” of involvement in the killing and released a day later, stressed that Egypt’s constitution grants Egyptians the right to hold peaceful marches, and called for the protest law to be amended so that it allows for protests, instead of restricting them.
He hoped for the interior ministry’s “culture” and “methods” to change, especially after two revolutions, he said, referring to the 2011 uprising and to the June 2013 protests that led to the ouster of former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.
Spokesman El-Zahed called for releasing all political prisoners, and differentiating between them and "terrorists" or "criminals".
He acknowledged the media's role in spreading the truth in Sabagh’s case, by documenting the party's peaceful march from its beginning until she was shot.