Egypt policemen get 10 years for blogger’s death

March 04, 2014 - 6:08:31 am

Egyptian policemen Awad Suleiman (right) and Mahmoud Salah react in the dock during their trial in court in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, 220km northwest of Cairo, yesterday.

ALEXANDRIA: An Egyptian court yesterday sentenced two policemen to 10 years in jail for the killing of a blogger whose death rallied protesters in the 2011 revolt that toppled Hosni Mubarak.

The verdict comes at a time when several activists have expressed fears that the autocratic rule and widespread police abuse prevalent under Mubarak were returning.

The two policemen were sentenced following a retrial for the manslaughter and torture of Khaled Said in June 2010, after they had unlawfully arrested him at an Internet cafe in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria.

Mahmoud Salah Mahmoud and Awad Ismail Suleiman had initially been sentenced to seven years in October 2011 for excessive brutality.

Said’s death galvanised protests against then-president Mubarak, after pictures emerged online of the 28-year-old’s mangled face.

The government further enraged Mubarak’s opponents when it tried to cover up the killing by alleging he choked on a bag of drugs.

A Facebook group entitled “We are all Khaled Said” helped organise the 18-day protests that drove Mubarak’s hated police force from the streets and forced him to resign in February 2011.

Yesterday’s sentencing comes amid renewed popularity for the police, who supported the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Mursi in July, and a pattern of acquittals for policemen tried for killing protesters during the anti-Mubarak revolt.

Since Mursi’s ouster, Egypt has witnessed not only a crackdown on his supporters, which Amnesty International says has left more than 1,400 people dead, but also arrests of top youth leaders who spearheaded the revolt against Mubarak. 

Both defendants were in a caged dock when judge Ismail Attiya delivered the verdict. They showed little emotion on hearing the sentence.

Their lawyer said he would appeal the verdict, and relatives yelled at police outside the court room: “You sold out your men!”

Mahmud Abdel Rahman, a lawyer for Said’s family, said “justice has been delivered for all” and that the verdict sent a message of “deterrence to a powerful institution.”

Said’s sister Zahra, however, felt that the verdict was “still not enough”.

But “the most important thing is that the police were convicted in front of the people,” she said.

“The charge was also changed from beating to death to torture, which restores his (Said) dignity after many tried to smear his reputation.”

The lawyer for the accused, Ehab Aziz, said he was “not satisfied with the verdict “ and would appeal to the Court of Cassation.

Police and the forensic authority had initially said that Said choked to death after swallowing a packet of drugs.

Another forensic report later said he died of asphyxiation after being beaten, and that the packet of drugs was thrust in his mouth when he was unconscious.

Pictures of Said’s badly bruised face after his death spread on the Internet, and his case became synonymous with police brutality under Mubarak.

Said’s supporters and opposition activists have often clashed with security forces, in particular during the trial hearings.

In January, seven activists were sentenced to two years in prison for a violent and unlicenced protest outside the court hearing the Said case. 

Since Mursi’s ouster, the military-installed government has pressed an extensive crackdown on protests, mainly those of his Islamist supporters, frequently setting off violent street clashes.

Three years after the overthrow of Mubarak, Egypt’s police again faces accusations of brutality and ill treatment in detention centres, charges denied by the interior ministry.

The police and army have come under frequent attack by jihadist militants, mainly in the restive Sinai Peninsula, with dozens killed since Mursi’s ouster.

Yesterday, two policemen were shot dead and four wounded in four separate attacks across the country.AFP

Ruling on new judges in Mursi trials postponed

CAIRO: An Egyptian appeals court has postponed until April 9 a request by lawyers to appoint new judges in two trials involving ousted Islamist president Mohamed Mursi, judicial sources said yesterday.

The defence lawyers have demanded that the judges in two of three trials under way against Mursi withdraw, after private conversations between the defendants and their lawyers were allegedly taped and a newspaper leaked one between Mursi and lawyer Selim Al Awa. In one of the trials, Mursi and others are accused of breaking out of jail during the 2011 uprising. The second trial concerns accusations of espionage against the Islamist president, who was deposed by the army last July following massive protests against his one-year rule.

Mursi is also on trial for inciting the murder of protesters during his presidency and a new hearing is due to take place today.AFP

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