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Egypt overturns policeman's conviction for activist's death

The Court of Cassation in Cairo has annulled the guilty verdict of an officer charged with causing the death of a protester. The man was one of only several people convicted in the murders of hundreds of demonstrators.

Egypt's highest court on Sunday reversed a 15-year jail term handed down to a policeman who had been convicted of shooting a female activist dead in the street.

First Lieutenant Yaseen Hatem, 23, was initially charged in March 2015 for "battery that led to [the] death" of Shaima al-Sabbagh, a lesser charge than murder.

Sabbagh was hit by birdshot in January of last year while participating in a small march on the eve of the fourth anniversary of

the revolution that brought down longtime President Hosni Mubarak

. Marchers were in the process of bringing a wreath to Cairo's Tahrir Square to mark the event when police attempted to disperse them with the birdshot.

Her death sparked international outrage, particularly since part of the incident was caught on film and quickly spread across social media.

The outcry prompted President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to demand that the authorities bring her killer to justice. Hatem's trial was a rare instance of police facing the court for harming demonstrators, and most have been directly acquitted.

Rights groups: Police act with impunity

On Sunday, the Court of Cassation sided with Hatem in an appeal and ordered a retrial.

"It just proves that my client was innocent from the start," his lawyer, Gamil Sayid, told French news agency AFP, adding that Hatem would soon be freed.

Human rights organizations have consistently accused the Egyptian police of acting with impunity against protesters, particularly supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. A

crackdown against pro-Morsi activists

under Sisi's rule has seen thousands jailed and hundreds sentenced to death for ties to the now banned Muslim Brotherhood.

es/jlw (AFP, Reuters)

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