Lieutenant Yassin Salah Eddin was sentenced to 15 years in maximum security prison on Thursday for fatally shooting Shaimaa al-Sabbagh during a peaceful protest on January 24.
Sabbagh was killed while marching with members of the Popular Socialist Alliance Party from Talaat Harb Square to Tahrir Square, carrying flowers to place on the memorial for the martyrs of the 2011 revolution on the fourth anniversary of the protests that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak. During the march, Sabbagh was shot to death by a police officer as security forces attempted to disperse the demonstrators.
Following her death, 13 party members were arrested on charges of violating the Protest Law by organizing the rally without the requisite security clearance. Those charges were later dropped.
The Cairo Criminal Court’s verdict against Salah Eddin was “comforting” for all Egyptians, Socialist Alliance Party deputy head Zoudy al-Shamy told Mada Masr.
“Now we can openly pinpoint the killer of Shaimaa al-Sabbagh. He is no longer a defendant,” Shamy said. “The heavy prison sentence implies that there was an intention to kill her. It is strong evidence against her killers.”
Shamy explained that the party’s legal team is still debating whether or not to appeal the verdict in order to press for a harsher sentence against the police officer.
Sabbagh’s family, however, is not planning to appeal, according to Mohamed Abdel Aziz, a member of the legal team that represented the slain activist in the case, and head of the Haqaneya Center for Law.
“The family is very happy with the verdict, and there is no intention to appeal,” Abdel Aziz told Mada.
The charges against Salah Eddin had been a source of contention and worry for those following the case from the beginning, as the defendant was charged with beating the protester and inflicting injuries that ultimately led to her death, not with premeditated murder.
Lawyer Yasmine Hossam Eddin explained earlier to Mada that, since the officer was referred to trial for “beating” the activist, he could ultimately be acquitted on procedural grounds.
But “this charge is inconsistent with the technical evidence and the autopsy report,” Hossam Eddin clarified, “which show that Sabbagh was killed by a direct gunshot wound and was not beaten.”
In a previous hearing, the prosecution claimed that the Central Security Forces officer “harmed” the protesters who were marching that day, including Sabbagh. The prosecutor claimed that Salah Eddin shot Sabbagh with birdshot “without the deliberate intention of killing, though the attack did lead to her death.”
Sabbagh’s legal team submitted a request to change the charges to premeditated murder, but the request was denied by the court.
Nonetheless, on Thursday Salah Eddin was handed down the maximum penalty possible under the Penal Code, according to Abdel Aziz.
Sabbagh’s death provoked widespread local and international condemnation as a serious violation of the rights of peaceful assembly and expression. When the case was in the early stages of litigation, lawyers and observers worried that justice would not be served — and even after Thursday’s verdict, these fears remain, as Salah Eddin can still appeal the ruling.