Alexandria man allegedly tortured to death over suspected links to church blast

Mohamed Abdelfattah, Saturday 8 Jan 2011

A human rights group accuses police of torturing to death a Salafist man in Alexandria during investigations into the Two Saints Church terrorist attack

The family of a 31-year-old man is accusing state security officers of torturing him to death over links to the bombing of the Two Saints Church on New Year's Eve.

Sayyed Bilal, allegedly a member of the Salafist movement in Alexandria, was arrested 4 January.

Khalaf Bayoumy, who runs the Shehab Centre for Human Rights in Alexandria, told Ahram Online that many pointers suggest Bilal was tortured to death.

"Bruises and hematomas are in various parts of his body," said Bayoumy. "He was arrested without warrant and the authorities were keen to bury him as soon as possible."
A short video of a severly bruised corpse of a bearded man in his 30's, allegedly that of Bilal, is being circulated on the internet and social media websites. 
The Interior Ministry wasn't available for comment.

Family members and neighbours suggest Bilal was a religious person following Salafism, a puritan-like orthodox version of Sunni Islam. But Alexandria’s Salafist leaders deny any link to the attacks. 

“The Islamic approach we adopt refuses these [violent] tactics which only serve those who don’t wish any good to our Egypt,” said a statement issued by the Salafist movement on 1 January.   

According to the family's lawyer, Khalid Al-Sharif, Bilal's body was transferred to the private Zukailah Medical Centre, but at first the family refused to receive the corpse because they wanted prosecutors to look into their accusations.

Al-Sharif also suggested that the family was pressured into burying Bilal as soon as possible in a move he believes could harm the investigation process because there was no detailed forensic report done despite accusations that Bilal was tortured to death.

"We presented a complaint to the prosecutor demanding an investigation into what happened," Al-Sharif told Ahram Online. "We accuse the state security headquarters in Alexandria of killing Bilal in custody." 

But Bayoumy believes that now prosecutors are taking the case seriously. He told Ahram Online that the investigation has been transferred from the office where the family made their complaint on 6 January to a higher level prosecutors' office. "That is often the case in big issues like this," said Bayoumy.

Security forces have been stepping up their efforts to find the perpetrators of the Two Saints Church blast that occurred a week ago. Tens of Alexandria’s salafists have been reportedly rounded up.

“Egyptian security is under immense pressure to find the culprits," said Bayoumy, which has resulted in the arrest of innocents. 

Alexandria has witnessed a number of alleged torture cases in the past year, most prominently the death of 28-year-old Khaled Said. The death instigated a wave of protests across Egypt.

Egypt has come under attack by human rights groups. “Security forces and the police routinely torture or ill-treat detainees, particularly during interrogation," Human Rights Watch said in a 2004 report. "In most cases, officials torture detainees to obtain information and coerce confessions, occasionally leading to death in custody."
Short link: