Anger at Cairo bus stop after driver shot dead by policeman

Ayat Al Tawy , Monday 29 Aug 2016

An eyewitness tells the story of the fatal police shooting; interior ministry says the policeman has been arrested

File Photo: Microbuses in midtown Cairo (Reuters)

Service at a major microbus station in the upscale Cairo district of Maadi appears to be operating normally after drivers had held a strike earlier today over the killing of one of their colleagues by a policeman Sunday night.

The 26-year-old victim, Gamal, was shot dead by a low-ranking policeman who intervened to break up a brawl between Gamal and another driver.

Eyewitness Amr Mostafa, who was accompanying Gamal at the time, told Ahram Online that Gamal was driving on the Ring Road when he was cut off by another microbus, after which a physical fight broke out between Gamal and the other driver, who Mostafa says appeared to be “on drugs.”

The policeman then showed up to break up the fight, launching into a verbal assault against Mostafa and Gamal before "loading his pistol and aiming it towards us."

Mostafa said the policeman then hit him on the head with the butt of his pistol before shooting Gamal dead. 

Mostafa, who bears a head injury from the incident, says he has filed a formal complaint against the policeman.

The interior ministry said in a statement on Monday that the unnamed policeman did not intend to shoot Gamal, and that he “fired a warning shot as he intervened to disperse the fight, mistakenly injuring Gamal and causing his death.”

The statement added that the policeman had intervened after those involved in the fight "sought help."

The ministry said that prosecutors are questioning the policeman over the incident.

Angry microbus drivers at Maadi’s Arab bus stop had staged a strike at dawn to protest their colleague's killing, though the strike ended five hours later after authorities forced them to get back to work and board passengers.

"Police took photographs of us and we were [indirectly] threatened in case we went on with the strike," said one of the drivers, who identified himself as Mohamed.

He added, however, that the officials promised that justice would be served as the policeman was being interrogated.

"Who is going to hold [policemen] accountable? The government does not hold its own men accountable," 30-year-old passenger Ahmed said, condemning what he perceives as a climate of impunity.

Many drivers at the bus stop have voiced anger over ill-treatment from police towards microbus drivers, with some saying that police conduct has been “worsening.”

Sunday's killing is the latest in a series of incidents involving police violations and abuses leading to deaths in recent month.

In April, a street vendor was killed by a lower ranking policeman in New Cairo in a street dispute.

Earlier this year, another low-ranking policeman killed a driver in the working-class Cairo district of El-Darb El-Ahmar following a dispute over a fare. A court sentenced the policeman to life in prison this month, one of the harshest sentences issued against police officials convicted of similar violent crimes. The verdict can still be appealed.

Police brutality helped ignite the 2011 revolt that ousted long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak from power. Overhauling the notorious security apparatus has been a longstanding demand among activists.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi had vowed that policemen found guilty of "committing wrongdoings" will be punished, and interior minister Magdy Abdel-Ghaffar has maintained that such violations represent "isolated incidents" as opposed to a systemic problem.

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