Egypt’s el-Sissi: Police who commit mistakes to be punished

Cairo: Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi told the country’s police academy today that officers who commit mistakes will be punished, after a wave of rising criticism of police in domestic media following the deaths of three people while in custody last month.

In a speech broadcast live on national TV, el-Sissi said “isolated incidents” should not and do not reflect on the conduct of the whole police force, whom he thanked for keeping the country safe.

“When someone makes a mistake we will punish him … And this is something we all must pay attention to. All the state’s institutions must take note that it’s not possible for an individual’s mistake to have us accuse an institution,” el-Sissi said during his surprise visit to the academy in Cairo.

The death of a man in Luxor while in police custody sparked riots in the southern city, while in the port city of Ismailia, anger erupted following the death of a veterinarian who had quarreled with a police officer.

In the Nile Delta province of Qalyoubiya, police officials are investigating accusations by a man’s family that he was tortured to death by a police officer.

Police brutality was one of the main grievances of protesters in the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

“Not one person walking down the street should be harmed. And we the police must be aware that the Egyptian citizen that you’re dealing with, in the end, is your brother,” el-Sissi said.

The president acknowledged the difficulties in maintaining rule of law in Egypt in the country’s current situation.

“You have the right to take care of the institution and defend it. But when you are keeping a close eye on the force and defending it, I want you to be fair,” he said.

Egyptian security forces have for years battled an Islamic insurgency based in the restive northern Sinai region, where a local Islamic State affiliate has claimed a series of attacks against police and military checkpoints, as well as the downing of a Russian plane on October 31.

The fighting has surged since the army overthrew Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in 2013.