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Egypt jails police officer for deaths of prisoners

13 August 2015, 18:06

Cairo - An Egyptian court sentenced Thursday a police officer to five years in jail in his retrial for the deaths of 37 Islamist prisoners who suffocated from tear gas, a court official said.

The officer had been sentenced to 10 years at the first trial in March 2014, but that verdict was overturned by an appeals court and a retrial was ordered.

On Thursday, the court also upheld suspended one year sentences previously handed to three other officers over the August 2013 deaths of the prisoners.

The 37 prisoners, who were alleged supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi, died after officers fired tear gas inside their overcrowded police truck when they were being transferred to Abu Zaabal prison near Cairo.

The officer sentenced to five years on Thursday was the deputy head of the police station that oversaw the transfer of prisoners.

The four officers were previously found guilty of manslaughter after the prosecution's investigation revealed they acted recklessly toward the victims.

During the first trial, a justice ministry expert said the truck used for transporting the victims had a capacity of only 24 people, but was carrying 45 that day.

The interior ministry said at the time of the incident, which took place at the peak of the crackdown against Morsi's supporters, that police fired tear gas when the inmates rioted.

It came four days after security forces stormed two pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo, sparking clashes that killed hundreds.

Since the army's ouster of Morsi on July 3, 2013, a brutal police crackdown targeting his supporters have left more than 1,400 people dead and thousands jailed.

Hundreds have also been sentenced to death in speedy trials.

Morsi himself and top leaders of his Muslim Brotherhood are also on several trials.

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