CAIRO — A Cairo court on Thursday found four senior policemen not guilty of killing protesters during last year’s popular uprising, the latest acquittal of officials charged in connection with the more than 800 deaths during the crackdown.
The four police generals are among some 200 security officers and other former regime officials who have been tried or still face charges in separate cases related to the deaths of protesters during the revolt that toppled longtime President Hosni Mubarak. The ousted leader himself received a life sentence for failing to stop the killings, but the vast majority of police officials has been acquitted or is still on trial.
There have been just two cases in which security officials have been convicted, but in both instances they received suspended sentences or were tried in absentia.
Critics say the acquittals leave unanswered the question of who was to blame for the deaths.
Many Egyptians accuse the authorities of failing to adequately investigate what happened during the early days of the revolt when riot police waged a fierce crackdown in an attempt to quell the anti-Mubarak demonstrations. Others accuse the Interior Ministry of either hiding or tampering with evidence that could have revealed who was behind the killings.
Mubarak’s successor, Mohammed Morsi, who was elected in Egypt’s first free presidential election, appointed a fact-finding committee in July to review the investigations and trials related to the killing of nearly 1,000 protesters from Jan. 25, 2011, until June 30, 2012, when he was sworn-in as president.
Mubarak and his interior minister were sentenced to life in prison for their roles in killing protesters during the 18-day revolt that unseated him. The former president was found guilty for failing to stop the killings.
Another court on Thursday acquitted four former militant Jihadists in a retrial after a military tribunal had convicted them in absentia on several charges, including plotting a coup, and sentenced them to death.
The four are former leading members of the militant Gamaa Islamiya group, which was behind the assassination of former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981. Among those acquitted was Mohammed el-Islambouli, the brother of Sadat’s assassin.
Also on Thursday, Morsi appointed Hisham Genina to head the country’s auditing agency. The watchdog, similar to that of the U.S. Government Accountability Office, is tasked with ensuring transparency and accountability, and monitors government agencies. The post had been vacant since March 2011.
The agency’s role monitoring the government was largely neglected under Mubarak, whose nearly three-decade rule resulted in rampant and widespread corruption by government officials.
Genina previously headed Cairo’s Court of Appeals and was considered by many a leading independent judge. He was an outspoken critic of the Mubarak regime.
Morsi also issued a decree Thursday that shifted the public outreach office that handles relations with the foreign press in Egypt and media relations with Egyptian embassies abroad from the Ministry of Information to the presidential office. The move helps consolidate the president’s control over the messages he would like to project abroad.
Morsi, who has already visited Saudi Arabia, China and Iran, will make his first trip to the West next week, travling to Brussels, Belgium, for meetings with EU officials, presidential spokesman Yasser Ali said. Morsi is also expected to visit the United States to attend the U.N. General Assembly session later this month.