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Egypt sentences policeman to life for killing taxi driver after fare dispute

The killing of 24-year-old taxi driver sparked rare protests and put spotlight on Egyptian police who rights groups say act with impunity
Bystanders stand near the site where policeman Mustafa Mahmud shot and killed taxi driver Mohamed Ali Sayed Ismail (AFP)

In a case that has provoked outrage over police abuses, an Egyptian court on Saturday sentenced a policeman to life in prison for shooting to death a taxi driver over a fare dispute, a judicial source said.

Mustafa Mahmud was referred to an expedited trial after he killed 24-year-old Mohamed Ali Sayed Ismail with his police issue firearm in February, sparking rare protests and an apology from the interior ministry.

Mahmud had hired Ismail to transport his belongings when they had a dispute over the $3.83 fare that turned violent.

A life sentence in Egypt is 25 years. Mahmud can appeal against the verdict issued by the Cairo criminal court.

Days after the incident, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said he would ask parliament to amend the law to toughen sanctions for police abuses.

Police have been on the defensive after a string of deaths in custody, reminiscent of abuses that sparked the 18-day uprising that toppled longtime president Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Five years on, human rights groups are again denouncing torture and deaths in police stations, arbitrary arrests and the disappearances of opponents of the government.

In February, thousands of doctors held a protest against the police after officers allegedly assaulted two doctors in a hospital.

Over the past year, several policeman have been detained for violence against prisoners and some have been sentenced to jail.

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