An Egyptian activist detained at an anti-government rally last month has died in police custody, enraging protesters in the country's north and forcing the government to order another investigation into suspected police abuse of human rights.
Twenty-eight-year-old Mohamed El-Gendy died Monday after police transferred him unconscious to a hospital in the Nile Delta town of Tanta. Egyptian police had arrested the member of the opposition Popular Current party at a protest in Cairo's Tahrir Square on January 27. Friends and family of El-Gendy said his fatal wounds were the result of police torture.
After the activist's funeral in Tanta, some protesters threw stones at police and tried to storm a provincial government building. Riot police fired tear gas in response.
President Mohamed Morsi's office said he has ordered an investigation into El-Gendy's death. In a statement, the president vowed there will be "no return" to the rights abuses perpetrated by Egyptian authorities during the rule of his predecessor Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in a 2011 popular uprising.
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The Egyptian government also has ordered prosecutors to investigate the actions of Cairo police who were filmed beating a man who had been stripped naked at a protest last Friday outside the presidential palace. Morsi called the incident "shocking."
Opposition groups have accused Egyptian police of using excessive force during more than a week of nationwide protests in which about 60 people were killed. They contend Morsi is trying to gain a monopoly on power for his Muslim Brotherhood movement. Supporters of the government say it has been making sincere attempts to reform the police.
U.S. State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland said Monday that Washington "strongly condemns" the recent violence in Egypt.
"We are extremely disturbed by these incidents, including sexual assaults against women and the beating of a defenseless man last week. We urge the government of Egypt to thoroughly, credibly and independently investigate all claims of violence and wrongdoing by security officials and demonstrators and to bring the perpetrators to justice," she said.
Egyptian media said Monday that Culture Minister Mohammed Saber resigned as a protest against abuse by police, but it was not clear if his resignation had been accepted. Egypt's official MENA news agency reported later that the report about Saber had been denied by the Cabinet, but it gave no details.