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Egyptian court clears security officer of torturing detainee to death

A former State Security major has been acquitted of torturing a suspect to death in the months leading to the ousting of Hosni Mubarak. The accusations of brutality fueled anger among regime opponents.

Major Mohammed Abdel Rahman al-Shemi was convicted to 15 years in 2012 for his treatment of the suspect in a deadly church bombing. The blast, which occurred on New Years Eve 2011, killed at least 20 people in Alexandria.

Egypt's highest court has since overturned the verdict and sent Shemi's case to a retrial in which he was cleared. The former security officer was released on Thursday, a judicial official said.

The alleged incident, along with other claims of police brutality, helped turn the tide against former Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak, who was toppled by a popular uprising four years ago.

Mubarak cleared of murder charges

In the months leading to the uprising, Abdel Rahman al-Shemi was working in Egyptian State Security. He was also one of the five officers accused of detaining a 32-year old Islamist, suspected of involvement in a suicide attack on an Egyptian church.

The suspect's body was returned to his family the next day, showing signs of torture, his relatives said at the time.

The clashes which brought down Mubarak claimed some 800 lives during the 18-day revolution. Although the former leader was put to trial over the protesters' deaths, an Egyptian court dismissed murder charges against him and cleared his top aides.

Another bloody crackdown

The 2011 uprising brought Islamist Mohammed Morsi to power, who was in turn ousted by Egyptian military in 2013.

Police, who were widely accused of human rights abuses under Mubarak, have managed to improve in the years since the revolution. However, critics claim that the security forces are once again act with impunity, following the military takeover.

The current government, led by former military general Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, stirred international outrage over its crackdown on Morsi's supporters, which killed hundreds and jailed thousands more.

Morsi himself was convicted to death in May this year.

Paris-based International Federation of Human Rights said that Egyptian security forces have stepped up sexual attacks against detainees since Morsi's was toppled.

dj/bw (Reuters, AFP)

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