CAIRO — An Egyptian court acquitted six police officers Saturday on charges of killing 83 protesters during the country’s 2011 uprising, an outcome that rights activists say could allow toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak to walk free on similar charges.
It was the last case in a string of acquittals for nearly 100 officers charged in the killings of about 840 demonstrators during the 18-day revolt. They came as Mohammed Morsi, Mubarak’s successor and ousted Islamist president, finds himself entangled in multiple court cases that carry the death penalty.
“The sequence of events show that Mubarak will most probably get acquitted,” said human rights lawyer Mohsen el-Bahnasi, who also represents the families of 83 protesters killed in Alexandria.
Mubarak and his top security official, Habib el-Adly, were sentenced to life imprisonment in June 2012 before a court overturned the verdict on appeal. They also face a retrial with others for failing to stop killings of protesters.
Rights groups say the military-backed interim government is trying to scrub the image of the country’s police, notorious for the torture and abuse that sparked the 2011 uprising.
That’s as progovernment media depict anti-Mubarak revolutionaries as foreign agents orchestrating chaos.
Meanwhile, security forces routinely use a new protest law to target Morsi supporters and others protesting against the interim government. A Cairo court on Saturday sentenced 15 young protesters to two years in prison and nearly $7,100 in fines for protesting without a permit in January.
“The whole world knows who killed the protesters and who incited shooting them,” said Ahmed Ezzat, a lawyer who works with the prominent Freedom of Thought and Expression group. “These acquittals strengthen [Mubarak’s] position. . . . Now we have the interim authorities putting it all on Morsi.”
The Alexandria case involved the former head of security in the city and of the riot police. Prosecutors alleged that commanders armed police with live ammunition and allowed officers to shoot at protesters in front of police stations from nearby rooftops.