Dozens of Egyptian women rallied Thursday to protest the killing of a female protester during a peaceful protest last week, accusing the police of shooting her and demanding her killers be brought to justice.
The Thursday protest was the first public rally against the slaying of 32-year-old activist and mother Shaimaa el-Sabbagh. It followed a storm of criticism of police tactics and of the 2013 protest law that criminalized unauthorized protests, empowering police to deny permits or use force to disperse them.
Since the ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in 2013 after mass protests against him, authorities have cracked down on critics. Thousands have been imprisoned on charges of violating the protest law, while hundreds have been killed in the violent dispersal of rallies.
The organizers of Thursday's rally defied the protest law by not seeking permission from authorities. The police were out in force, but the demonstration, attended by more than 100 women, ended peacefully.
El-Sabbagh was killed Saturday, on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the uprising that forced longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak to step down. She and other protesters had demanded policemen be tried for killing demonstrators. The protest Thursday took place at the downtown square where she was killed.
Images of el-Sabbagh, held up by a fellow protester, with blood running down her face, have been widely circulated.
Medical reports said birdshot fired at close range pierced el-Sabbagh's lungs and heart. But officials deny police killed el-Sabbagh. A senior police official told reporters that the images were "inconsequential," and said an investigation is underway.
Holding posters depicting el-Sabbagh's shooting, the women protesters on Thursday chanted "Police are thugs!" and "Down with every president so long as blood is cheap!" A poster carried by most read: "How many more martyrs before victory?"
Nadine Wahab, a protester, said the government is using violence and the protest law to scare people off the streets.
"We are here to show we are not afraid," she said. "We are not just going down for the death of one person, but to save our revolution from the police state and the psychology of terror and fear."
At one point, a small crowd of pro-government protesters shouted back, chanting "The police are perfect!"
A half hour into the rally, a police officer appealed to the women to disperse.
"We fear for you because we don't want what happened to (el-Sabbagh) to happen to you," the officer told the crowd.