CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi issued a rare apology Sunday over a police officer beating a lawyer with a shoe last week, an attack that sparked a general one-day strike by the country’s lawyers.
The Lawyer’s Syndicate issued the call for the Saturday strike to protest a deputy police chief who attacked a lawyer in the country’s Nile Delta.
In statement Sunday, el-Sissi called on people to respect the rights and freedoms of Egyptians, in an apparent appeal to the police.
“I apologize to the Egyptian lawyers and to all Egyptian citizens who have been the subject of any abuse,” he said.
But in Egypt, police and powerful security agencies act with near impunity against opponents or those trying to engage in unwelcome political activity. Rights activists report a return of torture, abuses and arbitrary arrests surpassing even the 29-year rule of autocrat Hosni Mubarak, who was toppled in Egypt’s 2011 revolt.
The lawyers’ strike was a top headline in many Egyptian newspapers Sunday, with many Egyptian media outlets reporting 90-percent participation by lawyers.
On Sunday, a misdemeanor court in the Nile Delta province of Damietta sentenced the deputy police chief, Ahmed Abdul Hadi, to three months in prison and set his bail at some $390 on charges he beat the lawyer with a shoe, a serious insult in the Arab world.
But the court also sentenced the beaten lawyer, Emad Sami, to one month in prison and set bail at $130 on a charge of verbally insulting the same officer.
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