CAIRO — Hundreds of Egyptians attacked a courtroom in Cairo on Monday, scuffled with security guards and blocked a major highway for hours after the court ordered the release of 10 police officers charged with killing protesters during the country's uprising.
The unrest added to tensions already running high in Egypt over the ruling military council's failure to hold accountable security forces involved in killing protesters during the uprising that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak. Nearly five months later, only one police officer has been convicted in the deaths of more than 846 people killed in a government crackdown on protesters. He was tried in absentia.
In Monday's court proceedings, guards had to separate the relatives of the victims and the families of the defendants even before the decision was read. In his initial statement, the judge seemed to suggest he would impose harsh sentences, saying that "the blood of those killed will not be spilled in vain," according to the Egyptian news agency MENA.
However, he then ordered the release of the defendants, setting off a riot.
The victims' families scuffled with the guards and tried to rush toward the defendants, who were whisked out of the courtroom. A number of family members of the slain protesters tried to storm the judge's office in the courthouse, but were blocked by soldiers guarding the building.
After the riots broke out, Egypt's Prosecutor-General Mahmoud Abdel-Meguid ordered the court's decision overturned in a clear attempt to defuse anger.
However, an attorney for the victims' families said that such a decision is illegal because the prosecutor general has no authority over the court.
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