Death of a driver turns up the heat on Egyptian police

Sherif Tarek , Saturday 4 Jun 2011

As if Egyptian police weren’t already accused of a long list of violence, the death of a driver after a physical blow-out with a police officer in downtown Cairo has, once again, aroused anger

Photo: Hossam El-Hamalawy
Burned police car in front of El-Azbakeya police station in central Cairo (Photo: Hossam El-Hamalawy)

The relationship between the police and Egyptian citizens has apparently taken a turn for the ‎worse as a man mysteriously died after clashing with a senior officer. The incident ‎wreaked havoc in front of El-Azbakia Police Station in downtown Cairo on Friday.‎
Forty-year-old chauffeur, Mohamed Saeed, according to accounts, entered into a fight with ‎a senior police officer outside the downtown Cairo police station. Reportedly, he was later ‎taken inside with 13 other mini-bus drivers for parking violations.‎

Shortly afterwards, Saeed was pronounced dead, yet it is not clear what caused his ‎demise.‎

A crowd of hundreds, including his relatives and fellow drivers, accused the police of ‎torturing him to death. ‎

They ‎gathered around the station in protest, asking to see the body and trying to ‎force their way in. A police car was set on fire in the process as Molotov cocktails were ‎thrown at the facilities.‎

Security sources denied any foul play and said Saeed seemed to have collapsed of low ‎blood pressure. His body had been transferred to the morgue for an autopsy while the ‎interior ministry said it was investigating the incident.‎

Mohamed Madkour, the senior police officer with whom Saeed fought, assured that the ‎latter was not abused by any policemen, as alleged. “He physically assaulted me, which ‎caused pedestrians on the streets to beat him up,” he told Al-Jazeera Mubasher TV.‎

‎“After he was arrested, he was set to be transferred to the general prosecution, but ‎troopers escorting him told me over the phone that he was not well and needed medical ‎care.‎

‎“I ordered them to take him to the hospital but he passed away before he was admitted.‎

‎“According to an initial medical report, he suffered from some bruises and injuries but they ‎were definitely not the reason why he died … medical tests are still underway to ‎determine the cause of death.‎

‎“His family members came to the station and we told them what happened. They seemed to ‎have believed us but later they told a whole different story to the people in Tahrir Square, ‎causing them to attack us.‎”

One of the victim’s cousins later phoned in and said: “He [Saeed] was tortured by the ‎police. I’ve seen the body, it’s all covered by blue spots. There are also burn marks that ‎indicate he was electrocuted.‎

‎“He was a healthy man, it doesn’t make sense that he died all of a sudden like that.”‎

The roads were unblocked in downtown near El-Azbakia Police Station after last night’s ‎‎atrocity ended and the facilities were secured by police and military forces. ‎

The unfortunate incident came in the wake of another case of alleged torture and murder of a ‎man at the hands of police forces in Beau-Lac Police Station.‎

In response to the incident, activists call for a protest in front of the ministry of interior ‎building on Monday, 6 June – the anniversary of Khaled Saeed’s torture and death.‎

Activists said the minister of interior’s statement – which held that the police are not ‎accountable for yesterday’s death – is unacceptable. They also called for the Minister of ‎Interior Mansour El-Eissawi’s resignation.‎

Furthermore, they demand that all policemen convicted of torture see harsh retribution ‎and be sacked from the police force.‎

According to eyewitnesses, Khaled Saeed’s death on 6 June 2010 was a result of a vicious ‎attack by two robust policemen who beat him to death at the entrance of a residential ‎building before several pedestrians. He was 28.‎

It is deemed the most famous police brutality incident in Egypt, causing widespread wrath ‎and the youth to organise themselves on Facebook to stage peaceful protests. It's even ‎believed to be one of the reasons behind the 25 January Revolution.‎

Under former minister of interior Habib El-Adli, the ministry routinely covered ‎up torture practiced by the police and security forces over the past years. Many people ‎believe the same inhuman practices are still common up until now.‎


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