CAIRO – An Egyptian court sentenced five policemen to 10 years in prison in absentia on Tuesday for killing protesters, in a rare conviction of security officials accused of using deadly force against the demonstrations that overthrew Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
Typically defendants who do not appear in court are automatically convicted, but will also receive a new trial once apprehended.
However, families of slain protesters attending the court session counted the convictions as a victory. They broke down in tears and chanted "God is great!" in a show of relief.
Until now, out of the nearly 200 policemen and security officials who face charges related to the killing of protesters in 2011, one was convicted in absentia. When had a retrial, he received a one-year suspended sentence.
Others are still standing trial, including Mubarak himself. A verdict in his case is expected next month.
Out of the 17 defendants who appeared on Tuesday before the Giza Criminal Court, two others received one-year suspended sentences while ten other policemen were acquitted.
The 17 were charged in relation to the killing of five protesters and the injury of 17 others in front of three police stations during Egypt's 2011 uprising in Giza, Cairo's twin city.
More than 800 protesters were killed during the upheaval that forced longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak to step down. Many died from gunshot wounds sustained in clashes outside police stations.
Many Egyptians accuse authorities of failing to adequately investigate what happened during the 18 chaotic days of street protests in January and February 2011, or to hold those responsible for killing protesters to account.
Some critics say it is because the investigating prosecutors were loyal to the old regime and intentionally brought to court cases that lacked adequate evidence.
Others say that most of policemen facing trials were in fact acting in self-defense, and were protecting police stations attacked by crowds during the uprising.