Story highlights

Five Egyptian police officers are convicted in absentia on murder charges

The officers are accused of killing protesters during the 2011 uprising

They received 10-year prison terms; their whereabouts are unknown

Former President Hosni Mubarak is charged with ordering the killings

Cairo CNN  — 

A court convicted five Egyptian police officers of murder Tuesday for killing protesters in the February 2011 uprising that led to the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.

The convictions in Cairo Criminal Court come a day before the country’s first free presidential elections.

The officers, who were sentenced to 10 years in prison, were not present for their trial or sentencing, according to Adel Saeed, the spokesman for the general prosecutor’s office. Their whereabouts are unknown.

“The court decision may be appealed, and a retrial is possible too since it was in absentia,” he said.

Amnesty International reported in 2011 that Egyptian security forces, including police, frequently used excessive force in battling protesters during the uprising that forced Mubarak from power.

“Egypt’s security forces used tear gas, water cannon, lethal shotgun ammunition, rubber bullets and live ammunition to disperse crowds, including in circumstances suggesting that the protesters could not possibly have posed a serious threat to the security forces or others,” the group reported. “In some instances, the security forces drove into protesters in armored vehicles. In others, they beat protesters they apprehended with batons or sticks and kicked them.”

About 840 people died and more than 6,000 were wounded in the 18 days of the uprising, the group said.

Mubarak is charged with ordering killings to quash the uprising that brought about an end to his 30-year rule. He faces a possible death penalty if convicted.