May 28, 2015 / 5:24 PM / in 3 years

Egyptian court clears state security officer of killing detainee

CAIRO (Reuters) - An Egyptian court on Thursday acquitted a state security officer who had been convicted of torturing to death an Islamist detainee, state media said, in a case that has fueled anger over police brutality in the weeks before the 2011 uprising.

Mohamed Abdel Rahman al-Shemi had been sentenced to 15 years in prison, but Egypt’s highest civil court overturned the conviction and ordered a retrial in which he was cleared, state news agency MENA said.

Egypt’s police force, widely accused by human rights groups of abuses during Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule, has made a strong comeback since he was toppled in 2011.

Critics say it is again acting with impunity, though there have been some cases in which courts have sentenced officers to jail terms.

The Interior Ministry says allegations of abuses are investigated.

Shemi, a major in the state security service, was one of five officers accused of detaining Mohamed Sayyid Bilal, 32, in January 2011 on suspicion that he was involved in a New Year’s Eve blast at an Alexandria church that killed at least 20.

His body was returned to his family the day after his arrest bearing signs of torture, relatives said at the time.

Reporting by Ahmed Tolba and Shadi Bushra; editing by Andrew Roche

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