* Sentenced for torturing man to death during bomb probe
* Officers members of feared State Security
* Its reputation for brutality helped fuel uprising
By Abdel Rahman Youssef
ALEXANDRIA, Egypt June 21 (Reuters) - Four former officers in a now dissolved Egyptian security agency were sentenced in absentia to life in prison on Thursday for torturing to death an Islamist during investigations into the bombing of a church on New Year's Day 2011.
A fifth officer, the only one to attend the trial, was jailed for 15 years for his role in the death of Mohamed Sayyid Bilal, whose body was returned to his family a day after his arrest showing signs of torture and burns.
Bilal, 32 at the time of his death, was a Salafi Muslim, a member of a strict Islamist movement which has spawned a number of political parties since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak last year.
Many other Salafis were rounded up following the bombing in Alexandria which killed 23 people and has still not been explained. Habib el-Adli, the interior minister at the time, accused the Army of Islam, a Gaza-based militant group, of carrying out the attack, something it quickly denied.
Following the uprising against Mubarak's 30 years in power, conspiracy theories circulated widely in Egypt that Adli himself had ordered the bombing. Both Adli and Mubarak were sentenced to life in prison earlier this month over the deaths of hundreds of protesters killed in the uprising.
"These verdicts are the beginning of the cleansing of the interior ministry of the corrupt people who squandered the dignity of the Egyptian people for 30 years," said Khalaf Bayoumi, the lawyer for Bilal's family.
Those convicted on Thursday were all members of State Security, an agency tantamount to Egypt's Stasi that was a hated symbol of Mubarak's rule. Its reputation for brutality helped fuel the uprising against Mubarak.
Judge Mohamed Mustafa Tirana gave life sentences to Hossam al-Shenawy, Osama al-Kunaysi, Ahmed Mustafa Kamal and Mohamed Abdel Aleem. Mohamed Abdel Rahman al-Shemi, the only one of the accused in court, was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
State Security was dissolved on March 15, weeks after Mubarak's Feb. 11 removal from power, after protesters stormed its headquarters. (Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Andrew Heavens)