Amnesty International is urging Egyptian authorities to investigate claims by the family of a 19-year-old man that he was tortured to death at an Alexandria police station earlier this month. Another young man was allegedly beaten to death by Alexandria police in June.
A 19-year-old college student from the Egyptian port city of Alexandria, who died under mysterious circumstances, is fast becoming a cause-celebre among Egyptian activists. Family members and friends of Ahmed Shaaban claim Alexandria police beat the young man to death and dumped his body in a canal.
Egyptian police insist Shaaban committed suicide, but family members argue his body was badly disfigured and partially dismembered.
Friends of Shaaban claim that police stopped him on the way back from a wedding and took him and a second man to the station when they refused to be searched.
Ahmed's cousin explains that family members finally turned to the police after he disappeared. He says Alexandria police gave conflicting information about Ahmed's whereabouts before an anonymous caller told them his body had been found in a canal.
He says when Ahmed's family went to the police station they were told he was not there until they paid a bribe. He adds that police asked them to sign an affidavit saying Ahmed's belongings were stolen. The official, he insists, told them Ahmed was wanted for theft.
Friends of Ahmed have set up several support groups on Facebook to publicize their allegations of torture. One close friend, Walid Abdel Razzak, says police dumped Ahmed's body in a canal because they were worried about a new scandal:
The allegations have taken on added significance because of another incident last June, where a young Alexandria man was also allegedly beaten to death by police from the same precinct. Government officials ordered the two officers alleged to have taken part in the killing to be put on trial after weeks of public protest.
Amnesty International in London is urging Egyptian authorities to investigate the allegations that Shaaban was tortured to death. Spokesman Said Haddadi wants Egyptian authorities to set up an independent investigation.
"These are serious allegations and I think they deserve to have a serious, independent and thorough investigation by the Egyptian authorities in order for justice to be done and for those who are responsible to be held to account."
Haddadi also insists that torture by Egyptian police is systematic. "We have received numerous reports of torture in Egyptian police stations and state security detention centers, so torture is widespread, unfortunately in the country and the Egyptian authorities often claim that these incidents of torture that human rights organizations bring to their attention are just separate incidents. But, from what we see, this is a very entrenched pattern that puts people at risk whenever they are in custody of police," said Haddadi.
Egyptian officials are complaining that human-rights groups are trying to sully the country's reputation before parliamentary elections on November 28. Rights groups said several days ago that imprisoned Egyptian blogger Kareem Amer, due to be released soon, was beaten by Egyptian state security police.