Alexandria's "third police torture case" is as yet not confirmed, awaiting the coroner's report. "Mustafa Attia died in the hands of policemen, but still we don’t know whether he died as a result of torture or of a heart attack," Hafez Abu Saeda, secretary-general of the Cairo-based Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EHOR) told Ahram Online.
A police statement claimed that Attia fainted when police went to collect him and died in hospital after he was rushed there.
Attia, 39, was arrested last Tuesday on his way out from a broker. Two policemen arrested him on grounds of a court case deemed pending resulting from his being unable pay back a bank loan taken out three years ago. "Attia had already paid his debts before he was arrested, but the policemen didn’t know that," Abu Saeda told Ahram Online.
Meanwhile, Attia's nephew, Mohamed Attia, explained to Ahram Online that the police reaction was suspicious, starting with not calling any family members when Attia died, to not allowing the family to conduct the funeral at the mosque near the Attia's house. Police also denied the family access to the morgue from 3pm to 12am. "This is an enough time to cover up the bruises on the victim's body," Mohamed Attia said.
Currently, the coroner has released a statement saying he is "searching" for the cause of death. Promises are that he will release a final report within one month.
Witnesses said they saw bruises on Attia's head, shoulder and back as a result of the police dragging him on the ground, according to Abu Saeda. But some witnesses, Attia's nephew told Ahram Online, have since changed their stories and deny any violence took place.
Until the final coroner's statement is released, EOHR considers that the case raises important human rights concerns over how the police treat ordinary citizens, and how the closure or resolution of court cases is brought to the attention of the police and recorded.
Attia was the married father of three children, the eldest four years old.
In the past six months, Alexandria has witnessed two other incidents of civilian deaths linked to the police. The case of Khaled Said, a young businessman who was allegedly beaten to death by policemen, caused an international uproar. The two policemen charged in that case are currently on trial.