Egypt's interior minister ordered on Tuesday that 54 police officers on trial for killing protesters be transferred to desk jobs in the ministry, security sources said, rather than suspending them.
Although on trial, the officers are free on bail and working in between hearings. Others, including former interior minister Habib al-Adli, are either in prison awaiting verdicts or have been sentenced.
The move could further inflame protesters, who have objected to a cabinet reshuffle this week partly because Interior Minister Mansur Essawy would keep his job.
The protesters want speedy trials of former regime officials and policemen implicated in the deaths of more than 800 protesters during an 18-day revolt that toppled president Hosni Mubarak in February.
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At the behest of Prime Minister Essam Sharaf earlier this month, the minister sacked hundreds of officers implicated in abuses.
But he argues that the law allows him to suspend or fire only colonels and higher ranks, but not lower ranks so long as they have not been found guilty of wrongdoing.
Security officials say the lower ranks are protected because they have not worked long enough to qualify for pensions.
The official MENA news agency reported that Essawy's move was aimed at ensuring that the officers "would be completely removed from dealing in any form with citizens."
Sharaf was expected to announce a new cabinet on Monday, in the hope of appeasing protesters camped out in central Cairo since July 8, but the lineup was immediately met with objections.
The 59-year-old premier was briefly hospitalised Monday night after suffering from exhaustion, the cabinet said, and on Tuesday suspended finalising the cabinet to rest on doctors' orders.