CAIRO — Clashes erupted at a Cairo courthouse on Monday after a judge ordered the release on bail of seven police officers on trial on charges of killing protesters in the city of Suez during the country’s 18-day uprising last winter.
Tensions in Cairo have been high in the last week over what many Egyptians see as a lack of accountability for the deaths of more than 850 protesters during the weeks of protest that toppled the former president Hosni Mubarak earlier this year. Above, violence in Tahrir Square on Sunday.
Families of some of the protesters, enraged at the suspect’s release, attacked the courthouse, fighting with police officers and later blocking traffic on a major highway north of Cairo for several hours, according to the local news media.
Tensions in Cairo, the capital, have boiled over many times in the last week over what many Egyptians see as a lack of accountability for the deaths of more than 850 protesters during the revolt that toppled President Hosni Mubarak on Feb. 11. Only one police officer has been convicted, in absentia, for some of the deaths, while the trials of other officers and former government officials, including Mr. Mubarak and his interior minister, Habib el-Adly, have been postponed repeatedly.
Although a judge decided to grant bail to the defendants, a spokesman for the public prosecutor, Abdel Meguid Mahmoud, said the court would “deliberate” Wednesday on the decision to release the seven officers.
“There is a large possibility the men might be forced to return to jail after Wednesday’s deliberation,” said the spokesman, Adel Said.
The officers are accused of killing 17 protesters and injuring 350 others in Suez, where battles between protesters and the police were especially protracted and bloody. In all, 10 officers have been charged, but three of them are being tried in absentia.
“The court didn’t rule that these men were innocent of the charges, but rather that it wasn’t necessary to keep them in jail while they await trial,” said a spokesman for the Interior Ministry who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The defendants’ next court date will be on Sept. 15. Victims’ families responded to the decision by pelting police officers with stones, storming the courthouse in the Cairo suburb of Tagammu el-Khames and threatening to burn down the administrative headquarters of Suez Province, according to Al Masry Al Youm, an Egyptian newspaper.
Al Masry Al Youm reported that families left the courthouse chanting “Watch and see what the people of Suez will do.” Later, they and a large number of protesters from Suez blocked traffic for several hours on the Cairo-Suez highway, a major artery that runs north of the capital.