An Egyptian police colonel threw tear gas into an overcrowded van containing 37 prisoners loyal to the Muslim Brotherhood, killing them all in 2013. The colonel received a reduced five year sentence in his retrial on Thursday, lawyers and judicial sources said.
The incident is one of the most notorious acts in the crackdown on the supporters of the Brotherhood after a military coup on July 3, 2013, led by Egypt's current President Abdul Fattah el-Sisi ousted it from power. The verdict comes only one day before the second anniversary of dispersal of the Rabaa pro Morsi Camp in 2013, in which hundreds died and thousands were unlawfully detained.
The government claimed the 37 suffocated prisoners died in an attempted breakout from prison.
The prosecutor's office later said they died inside the transportation van as a result of tear gas bombs being fired into such a confined space.
The officer convicted of the act, Lieutenant Colonel Amr Farouk, was initially sentenced to 10 years in jail in March 2014 for involuntary manslaughter and extreme negligence, while three other policemen were given suspended sentences.
"This verdict ... is merely a way to shut us up. It's unfair that 37 people die and one person gets a five-year sentence which he will probably appeal and walk free," said Mohamed Maghrabi, who's son Rafik was among the 37 who died.
Activists argue that the government gives out harsh and unjustified prison sentences and death sentences to Muslim Brotherhood members and sympathizers.
Egypt's former president and Brotherhood member Mohamed Morsi was sentenced to death in June for taking part in a prison break in 2011. It has been previously reported that his health is in poor condition.