12 June 2012

Egypt: Khaled Said - On the Struggle for the Criminalization of Torture

press release

On June 6th, 2012, the Egyptian citizen Khaled Said, 28, died of brutal torture at the hands of forces of Sidi Gaber police station in the city of Alexandria. Said was not the first, nor the last victim of the emergency law and the repressive policies of the Egyptian police. However, his death in such a way was one of the reasons for the revolution of January 25th that overthrew the tyrant Mubarak who had been in power for 20 years.

A Facebook page adopted the case of Said and turned it into a case of thousands of young people of his generation. They felt that it was easy to die of torture like Said, who paid his life merely for using the Internet.

Protests broke out in several Egyptian cities because of Said's death. The protests escalated following the farcical investigations carried out by the public prosecution, and peaked after the issuance of the contrived forensic report which stated that Said died due to swallowing a packet of drug.

Afterwards, Yasser Rifaei, public attorney of Alexandria Prosecution of Appeals, announced in a press conference that the police was innocent of Said's death. Moreover, the public prosecution charged Said's family of "filing a false complaint", prompting them to resort to the judiciary in demand his right.

The police violently repressed the protests and even detained and prosecuted some activists and human rights defenders who participated in them. The Ministry of Interior persisted in defending its personnel who killed Said, and issued a contrived criminal record that alleged that Said was a convict in three cases. The pro-regime media took advantage of the fabricated criminal record and the forensic report to defame Said and those who took to streets in demand of his right.

Eye witnesses' testimonies, human rights organizations' reports, and non-governmental facts-finding committees negated these calumnies and exposed the reality of what had happened to Said. These testimonies and reports spread amongst young people on social networking websites.

The picture of Said's mutilated body spread like wildfire. The protests gained news dimensions, as the aforementioned Facebook page, entitled Kollena Khaled Said (We are all Khaled Said), called for innovative ways to express the people's anger. Among these ways were dressing in black, and mourning and silent stands in various cities in Egypt. Many young people responded to these calls and took to streets in unprecedented numbers.

Several months later, the Egyptian revolution took place following calls for replicating the Tunisian revolution in January 2011. The Facebook page "We are all Khaled Said" adopted these calls and January 25th was set to be the day of anger. The people's anger outbroke and defeated the repressive security forces. Millions of people gathered in the streets demanding the overthrow of the regime and succeeded in ousting Mubarak.

Nevertheless, torture has not stopped in Egyptian police stations. The Egyptian civilian Essam Atta died of torture on October 25th, 2011 in Tora prison. Atta was serving a two years imprisonment sentence handed to him by an exceptional military court for his implication in a brawl on February 25th, 2011 in Cairo's district of Mokattam. Unfortunately, Atta did no have enough media attention, given the preoccupation of everyone in the unfolding events of the revolution until the present time.

In the aftermath of the revolution, the investigation into the killing of Said was reopened and the case was referred to Alexandria Criminal Court. The Court sentenced the two policemen Mahmoud Salah and Awad Suleiman from Sidi Gaber police station to seven years of rigorous imprisonment for ffinding them guilty of torturing and using cruelty with Khaled Said, which led to his death.

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