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Egyptian police to face trial over alleged beating of doctors

The incident, in which police are accused of beating up doctors who refused to falsify a medical report, sparked mass protests
Doctors protest against alleged police brutality in Cairo this February (AFP)

Egyptian prosecutors on Wednesday referred nine policemen to trial for allegedly attacking two doctors at a public hospital when they refused to falsify a medical report, officials said.

The January incident in Cairo's northern district of Matareya caused a major backlash, with thousands of doctors later demonstrating outside their union headquarters in the city.

The trial will open next Tuesday with the policemen being charged with using violence and verbally assaulting the doctors in the 28 January incident, two prosecution officials said.

Egypt's police have been on the defensive as rights groups denounce a rise in torture and deaths in custody since late 2015, as well as arbitrary arrests and "disappearances" of government opponents.

The alleged abuses are, for many, reminiscent of police behaviour under the rule of longtime president Hosni Mubarak, who was forced out of power by a January 2011 uprising fuelled by public outrage over security forces abuses.

In February, president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called for police who make mistakes to "immediately" be held responsible, and said he would ask parliament to toughen laws against such abuses.

In April, a policeman shot and killed a Cairo street vendor in an argument over the price of a cup of tea, prompting a protest by dozens of bystanders chanting: "The police are thugs."

After pictures from the scene spread on social media and with two passersby wounded, prosecutors said they would refer the policeman to trial for murder and attempted murder.

In February, a court sentenced a policeman to eight years in prison on charges of beating a veterinary surgeon to death while in custody in the northeastern town of Ismailiya.

Another policeman was given a life sentence in April for shooting dead a driver using his official firearm in an argument over the price of transporting goods. That incident also sparked protests in Cairo.