Egypt’s highest court has overturned a 15-year prison sentence for a police officer convicted of shooting and killing an activist during a demonstration last year. The judge has ordered a retrial for Yassin Hatem Salah Eddin, who was found guilty of premeditated manslaughter last June, the Associated Press reported.

Shaimaa el-Sabbagh, 33 at the time of her death, was a leader of a socialist party and was part of a gathering in January 2015 to commemorate those who died during the 2011 uprising against Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak. Witnesses said police refused to allow ambulances through to take Sabbagh to a hospital after she was hit with birdshot.

Her death was captured on video and images of the frail, dying activist — the mother of a young boy — quickly went viral, prompting anger across Egypt. Hundreds turned out for her funeral in Alexandria.

Egyptian activists slammed the court ruling Sunday. The acquittal of Eddin seemed to align with a series of suspended or overturned sentences of dozens of police officers who have stood trial for the killing of protesters. Some 900 people were killed in the 18-day uprising that led to Mubarak’s removal.



The police officer’s defense lawyer argued the protest violated a 2013 law that effectively banned street protests and police were confused about their orders. A day after Sabbagh was shot to death, 23 others also were killed, including three police officers, after demonstrations turned violent.

Human rights organizations and Egyptian activists have accused the current government, led by Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, a charismatic military general who took power in 2013, of suppressing free expression. His government cracked down on the opposition, arresting thousands aligned with left-wing movements and the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. 

Critics say his government has revived, if not intensified, many of the policies Egyptians took to the streets to protest five years ago.