Middle East

Egyptian policeman accused of killing activist goes on trial

Flowers and cards at the spot where activist Shaimaa Sabbagh died during a protest in January 2015, pictured on 29 January Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The spot where activist Shaimaa Sabbagh died during a protest in January 2015

The trial has begun of an Egyptian policeman accused of killing an unarmed female activist.

Yassin Hatem Salahedeen, a 24-year-old police lieutenant, is charged with manslaughter over the death of Shaimaa al-Sabbagh.

She died after appearing to be shot by a masked policeman at a peaceful protest in Cairo in January.

Her final moments were caught on video and went viral online, causing outrage within Egypt.

The judge ordered the detention of Mr Salahedeen at Sunday's opening hearing. He had previously been free on bail.

Presidential intervention

The 32-year-old activist died after being hit by shotgun pellets.

In the days that followed Egyptian police denied that they use birdshot against protestors.

However, in the face of mounting pressure across Egyptian society, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi intervened. He promised a full investigation, referring to Ms Sabbagh as "my own daughter".

The trial will resume 14 May, when prosecution witnesses will testify.

Image copyright AFP / getty images
Image caption The image of a protestor cradling Shaima al-Sabbah has become iconic

Death in the street

The death of Ms Sabbagh - a political liberal, a published poet and mother of a five-year-old boy - shocked Egyptian society.

On 24 January, she was walking with friends to Cairo's Tahrir Square to lay a wreath in memory of the 2011 revolution when masked police fired on the group with tear gas and birdshot.

Footage showed her collapsing to the ground and being cradled by a friend.

Egypt's policing of protests has been a recurring source of criticism, with 1,150 protesters killed in a crackdown in July and August 2013 alone, according to Human Rights Watch.

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