• Thu
  • Aug 28, 2014
  • Updated: 2:10am
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EGYPT

'Eye Sniper' jailed for three years, but police culture remains brutal

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 March, 2013, 4:07am

They called him the Eye Sniper of Cairo. In November 2011, 10 months after the uprising that was supposed to end state repression in Egypt, a young police lieutenant named Mohamed Sobhi el-Shenawy put his shotgun to his shoulder and started firing at protesters near Tahrir Square.

Egypt's already lax police protocol requires armed officers to shoot at people's legs. Shenawy shot at their eyes.

The eyepatches worn by those blinded by Shenawy became a vivid reminder of the unfinished nature of the Egyptian revolution. Other protesters wore fake patches in solidarity, while graffiti artists daubed portraits of the blinded on streets leading from Tahrir Square.

Hosni Mubarak may have been toppled, but Shenawy's barbarism showed that the military dictatorship that followed was barely any better.

Fifteen months later, the Eye Sniper has finally been sentenced. On Tuesday, Shenawy was jailed for three years - giving the impression that Egypt's new Islamist leaders might be about to take police reform (one of the main demands of the 2011 uprising) seriously.

But the view from inside Egypt is more nuanced. "We are very happy that we have a rare conviction of a police officer ... But you have to be aware of the bigger picture," said Karim Ennarah from the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.

It's just for show, to make people feel that things are going in the right direction. Many other policemen who committed many crimes have not been charged or faced any kind of justice

For Shenawy's jail sentence is something of an anomaly. In January 2011, at least 846 protesters were killed during the uprising against Mubarak. Only two policemen have been jailed for their part in the killings.

"It's just for show, to make people feel that things are going in the right direction," said Islam Khalifa, a human-rights lawyer. "Many other policemen who committed many crimes have not been charged or faced any kind of justice."

Even Shenawy's sentence was lenient - the same as the three years handed down in December to an Egyptian blogger accused of blasphemy.

The Eye Sniper may have been jailed. But the police culture that enabled his actions has barely changed.

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