Cairo: An Egyptian court on Sunday acquitted two police officers of torturing to death a lawyer while in detention three years ago in a case that triggered protests from his colleagues.

The ruling was issued by the Cairo Criminal Court in a retrial of the two officers, legal sources said. The ruling can be appealed, they added.

The case dates back to 2015 when Kareem Hamdi, a 27-year-old lawyer, had been arrested on suspicion of belonging to the banned Muslim Brotherhood and involvement in its violence. He later died inside a police station in the northern Cairo district of Matariya, a stronghold of Islamists.

Lawyers accused police of torturing Hamdi to death allegedly to extract confessions from him. They staged anti-government protests.

The country’s chief prosecutor ordered both officers from the National Security Agency to stand trial on charges of torturing the lawyer to death.

In December 2015, a court sentenced the two to five years in prison each.

In October 2016, the Court of Cassation, Egypt’s top appeals tribunal, revoked the verdict and ordered a retrial for both defendants.

Egyptian authorities have pursued a relentless crackdown on Islamists since 2013 when the military toppled president Mohammad Mursi of the Brotherhood following massive protests against his rule.

Rights groups have repeatedly accused the government of ignoring police’s purported violations. Authorities have downplayed the alleged abuses as isolated acts, vowing to bring any wrongdoer to justice.

In recent years, several policemen have been handed down varying jail terms in separate torture cases in Egypt.

Police abuses were seen as a major catalyst for the 2011 revolt that forced long-time president Hosni Mubarak out of power.