The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

The murder of Khaled Said

Egypt is abuzz with outrage after the death of Khaled Said, allegedly at the hands of the police. Here is a brief backgrounder:

“On Sunday, Khaled was at cyber café at around 11:30 in the evening. Two policemen asked him for money and when he said he didn’t have, they beat him,” Muhammad Abdel Aziz, lawyer with el-Nadeem, told al-Masry al-Youm. “As he was beaten up, his head hit a marble table and he started bleeding.”

According to Abdel Aziz, the policemen took Said out of the cyber café and continued to beat him. “He screamed at them saying ‘I am dying, leave me’, and he fell on the floor.” Abdel Aziz added that witnesses saw a yellow liquid coming out of Said’s mouth when he fell on the floor, after which there was bleeding. A pharmacist and a medic passing by confirmed he was shortly dead after they checked his tension.

Witnesses said a police car picked Said up. His family was later contacted and told he is in the morgue of Kom el-Dekka, to which they were denied access. At the prosecutor’s office, security told Said’s mother and brother that he swallowed a bag of drugs and that there were witnesses to the incident who confirmed seeing the bag. Ahmad Badawy, an activist in Alexandria with al-Ghad Party went on 11 June to the cyber café where the incident happened and said witnesses told him the drugs bag belonged to the two policemen who beat him up as he was shooting a video of them while making a deal.

The video refered to is here: Mohamed Abdelfattah مُحَمَّد عَبْدالفَتَّاحْ: Khaled was 'assassinated' because of this video

Further confirmation of his beating by the café owner: The Associated Press: Egypt cafe owner describes police beating death

CAIRO — The owner of an Egyptian Internet cafe says he witnessed police beating a young man to death and described the killing that has outraged rights activists.

Hassan Mosbah, in a filmed interview posted online Sunday, says two police officers came into his cafe in the city of Alexandria, dragged Khaled Said out into the street and beat him to death there. Pictures of Said's shattered face appeared on social networking sites after his death on June 6.

More details:
The most damning evidence is the picture of Khaled Said's face taken at the morgue, which shows clear signs of skull and jaw fracture (warning - graphic):
Pics from Zeinobia, who also has more on the Ministry of Interior's attempts to paint a picture of Khaled Said as a criminal: Follow Up : The Other Khalid
About 1000 people protested in Alexandria during the funeral for Said. Yesterday, political activists in Cairo protested outside of the Ministry of Interior calling for the minister's resignation — which, I believe for the first time, the NGO that broke the story, the Nadeem Center, has called for:
More on the protests, where several people were beaten including our friend Hossam el-Hamawy of Arabawy :

My own thoughts on this sorry affair:

Unfortunately such developments are routine, what is rarer is that we hear about them. Human rights groups have long been saying that torture is systematic and endemic in Egypt, this is what this means in practice. It also points to the criminalization of the police — not only is the Ministry of Interior coming out in full force to protect its own, but the officers in question appear to be involved in drug dealing. What this shows is that Egypt is continuing its slide from authoritarian state to mafia state, where the authorities don't even have to answer to institutions anymore.

The Nadeem Center is probably right: the only way to reverse this trend is to start by sacking Habib al-Adly, the improbably long-lived Interior Minister in place since 1997 (perhaps the longest-serving interior minister in the last 50 years, at least.) Al-Adly has been impervious to numerous torture scandals, to the deterioration of police work under his reign, to his handling of terrorist incidents in Sinai between 2004 and 2006, and much more. What can you say of a minister under whose tutelage abuses have worsened and the perception that police is run by criminal elements — notably drug barons — has proliferated? He should be sacked and his senior officers purged and investigated.

There is a lesson here for external powers too. Several embassies run police training programs and have other form of collaboration with the Ministry of Interior. How can you take these seriously under this type of leadership?

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