Egyptian authorities appear to have acknowledged public outrage and international outcries, arresting two police officers alleged to have fatally beaten a young Egyptian businessman.
In a case that has sparked widespread public outrage, the death of a young Alexandria man, allegedly at the hands of Egyptian police, is prompting government officials to take action. The public prosecutor has ordered two police officers suspected of involvement in the case to be held, pending further investigation.
Eyewitnesses say the dead man, 28-year-old Khaled Said, was brutally beaten by two police officers outside of an Internet cafe, where they allegedly accosted him. A police report and two official autopsies claimed that Said choked to death after "swallowing a packet of (illegal) drugs."
A website in memory of Said posted the testimony of eyewitnesses who claim that they saw the police officers push him to the ground and beat him in the face. Said's mother insists that he was hit repeatedly. She says they hit him until they broke his skull, and says they also bashed him in the face, breaking his jaw.
Friends of Said claim that Alexandria police were angered by a video that he had posted on the Internet, allegedly showing officers at an Alexandria police precinct dividing up the spoils of a drug bust. In that video, officers can be seen standing around a desk on which packets of what appear to be illegal drugs are placed. They also can be heard joking and discussing what to do with the substance. Police deny the accusations.
Human rights groups organized a number of demonstrations in both Cairo and Alexandria last month to protest alleged police brutality. Graphic photos of Said, showing his bruised and battered body, have been posted on many Egyptian websites.
Several thousand demonstrators gathered to honor Said last Friday at an Alexandria mosque, chanting slogans against the government. Many wore black shirts and carried posters of his face with a black stripe over it.
Former International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohammed ElBaradei attended the demonstration, lending support to the protest. He also visited the victim's family. Abdel Rahman Youssef, who is coordinator of the committee that supports ElBaradei's bid to become president, says the government is being pressed to act.
Youssef says there were two official autopsies, both of which tried to exonerate the police officers. But, he argues, public pressure, as well as the intervention of figures like Dr. ElBaradei, are forcing the government to react. He says that the government bowed to pressure following large public demonstrations and has detained the two accused police officers for further investigation.
Youssef does not think, however, that the government will punish the two officers, arguing that the "Interior Ministry will try to exonerate them, once again." But, he insists, "the Egyptian people and the protest movement will only accept a just conclusion to the case."