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Egypt jails police officers for prison deaths

An Egyptian court has jailed a police officer for 10 years over the deaths of 37 prisoners, who suffocated from tear gas in a police van, a judicial source and the state news agency said.

Tuesday’s sentence against Lieutenant Colonel Amr Farouk, deputy head of Heliopolis police station, was the toughest verdict yet against police since a deadly crackdown was launched on supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi.

Three other policemen were given one-year suspended sentences on charges of involuntary manslaughter and extreme negligence.

The incident occurred during the peak of the crackdown against supporters of Morsi, who was ousted by the army last July following mass protests against his rule.

Tear gas was fired into a van as his supporters were being taken to a prison near Cairo on August 18.

The Interior Ministry said at the time that the Brotherhood members had died during an attempted prison break after being suffocated by tear gas. However, a legal source said the men had died from asphyxiation in the back of the van.

State news agency MENA had said trucks carrying more than 600 prisoners came under attack by armed men, and a “number of prisoners” were killed in ensuing clashes.

The verdict was passed after the court heard testimony from seven wounded prisoners.

The court also heard from a Justice Ministry expert, who said the vans used had a capacity of only 24 people, while they were packed with 45 that day.

The deaths came just four days after security forces stormed two sit-ins of Morsi supporters in Cairo in which hundreds were killed. Since then, security forces have been continued a crackdown on them.

The Muslim Brotherhood has accused the authorities of large-scale human rights abuses. The government has denied the allegations and declared the Brotherhood a terrorist organisation which poses a grave security threat to the most populous Arab nation.

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