- Middle East/North Africa
Hundreds demonstrated in Cairo and Alexandria Friday to commemorate the first anniversary of the alleged murder of Sayed Bilal at the hands of police officers.
Dozens of Salafis participated in a protest outside the Supreme Constitutional Court in downtown Cairo. The demonstrators carried banners reading, "O freedom, where are you? The National Security Agency is between you and us," and "Justice, justice, for Bilal."
Near the end of the protest, demonstrators demanded punishment for those who killed protesters during the 25 January uprising, the handover of power to a civilian president, and a just trial for former President Hosni Mubarak and other figures from his regime.
Alexandria residents marched after Friday prayers at Leader Ibrahim mosque downtown and headed to the National Security Agency headquarters in the pharaonic district east of Alexandria. The protesters demanded the acceleration of the trial for the accused officers.
Around 2,000 participated in the march, holding banners reading, “Sayed Bilal was murdered,” “Retribution, retribution for the martyrs' killers,” and “Prosecute the murderers and slaughterers of the National Security Agency.”
The protesters also demanded the prosecution of former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly, who headed the ministry at the time of Bilal's murder.
Police arrested Bilal in his home at dawn on 5 January 2011 and returned his dead body to his family the following day. The family of Bilal, who followed the conservative Salafi interpretation of Islam, has accused security authorities of torturing Bilal to death during interrogations at a police station.
Police authorities had said Bilal was involved in the bombing of an Alexandria church on New Year's Eve leading into 2011. That attack left 23 dead and dozens injured.
Khaled Meshaal, spokesperson for the Salafi Front, said the primary purpose of the Cairo protest was to demand punishment for Bilal's killers.
The Salafi Front is planning several protests in the coming weeks, until police officers from the now-dissolved State Security Investigation Services responsible for Bilal's death are put on trial.
Last October, the Alexandria public prosecutor referred five National Security Agency officers to criminal prosecution on charges of torturing Bilal to death.
According to the state-run MENA news agency, the public prosecutor has accused the defendants of arresting Bilal for no reason and then torturing and murdering him, in addition to torturing others.
Bilal's brother Ibrahim told the Masrawy online news agency Thursday that his family will submit a claim to public prosecutor against the interior minister for hindering the investigation into Bilal's murder, as he did not order the arrest of the officers at the public prosecutor's request.
Four of the defendant police officers will be tried in absentia as their whereabouts remain unknown. Only one, Mohamed al-Shaimy, is currently in custody.
Hearings in the case were scheduled to begin at the Alexandria Criminal Court last December, but the judge postponed the trial to 23 February to allow the third stage of People's Assembly elections to conclude. The majority of Egypt's judges, as well as security forces, have been busy monitoring polling nationwide.