April 8, 2015 / 10:44 PM / in 4 years

Egypt to try another 379 Brotherhood members over sit-in violence

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt’s public prosecutor referred a further 379 alleged members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood to court on Wednesday over sit-ins in August 2013 that were broken up by security forces who killed hundreds of protesters.

The 379 are accused of causing the deaths of two policemen at al-Nahda Square in Giza, one of two sites where supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi gathered in the weeks following his overthrow by the military. They face charges including murder and vandalism.

The government accuses the Brotherhood of fomenting an Islamist insurgency since Mursi’s removal. Militant attacks have killed hundreds of Egyptians, mostly soldiers and police.

Security forces have killed hundreds and detained thousands of members of the group, which says it is committed to political change through peaceful means only.

Prosecutor Hisham Barakat said in a statement that two police officers had also been referred to court, accused of torturing a lawyer to death at a Cairo police station last month.

Prosecutions against members of the security forces are rare in Egypt where the police have reasserted powers eroded since the 2011 popular uprising that ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak. Critics say the police now act with impunity, an accusation the Interior Ministry denies.

Four policemen were charged last month in separate cases involving the deaths of a female protester and a suspected Brotherhood member.

Foreign governments and rights groups have condemned the use of force to disperse demonstrations at Nahda and Rabaa squares, the bloodiest event in Egypt’s recent history.

Cairo has defended its actions, saying it had given protesters the opportunity to leave peacefully and that armed elements within the Brotherhood initiated the violence.

Barakat also ordered a former provincial governor to stand trial for violating a strict protest law that has landed many of the leaders of the 2011 uprising behind bars.

Elsewhere, at least 11 civilians, including women and children, were killed in the North Sinai town of Sheikh Zuweid near the border with Israel when a rocket-propelled grenade landed on their houses, security and medical sources said.

The source of the attack was not immediately clear. Egypt’s government faces an Islamist insurgency based in that strategic region and growing discontent with what critics perceive as heavy handed security tactics.

Reporting by Omar Fahmy and Ali Abdelaty; Writing by Stephen Kalin; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

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