News / Africa

Egyptians Angry Over Report Exonerating Police in Businessman's Death

In a case that has outraged many in Egypt, a government investigation has concluded that a 28-year-old businessman who died earlier this month choked to death while trying to swallow a packet of drugs.  Human rights groups, witnesses and the victim's family insist he was beaten to death by plain-clothes police officers.

A crowd of hundreds of mostly young people chanted slogans against the Egyptian police, earlier this week, during a protest to denounce the death of a young man, whom they claim was beaten and killed by police.

The Egyptian general prosecutor's office reiterated the findings of an original autopsy, saying the victim choked to death while attempting to swallow a packet of illegal drugs.

Eyewitnesses and human rights groups say plain-clothes police officers beat 28-year-old Khaled Said to death after they dragged him out of an internet café in the port city of Alexandria.

Two family members say police beat Khaled Said to death and that they filed a misleading report about the cause of his death.

Friends of Said argue he provoked the ire of police in Alexandria after posting a video to the YouTube internet site that showed police officers appearing to distribute money and drugs claimed to have been seized after a drug bust, inside a police station.  Egyptian police deny the charges.

A Facebook website to honor Said reportedly received more than 65,000 signatures in less than a day to express condolences.  Photos on the site show Khaled's face scarred and bloodied with his lower jaw distended and missing its teeth.  His legs also appear to have extensive bruising.

Said's lawyer, Islam Abbaissi says the victim's body shows clear signs of torture and the government autopsy was outrageous.

He says he was surprised by the results of the autopsy because it was clear that the teeth of the victim were missing and that this could only have happened after being beaten.

Large demonstrations in Cairo and Alexandria in recent days were broken up by Egyptian police.  A woman told an Arab satellite TV channel that she saw Cairo police using batons to beat some demonstrators.

American University of Cairo politics and sociology teacher Said Sadek says Egypt's decades-old emergency laws have given police a sense of impunity.

"For 30 years, you have emergency laws and the government and the police got used to the idea of being brutal and getting away with it," said Sadek. "You do not have accountability.  Of course, there are some cases of torture that were transferred to the courts, but the general feeling in the country is that the police are beyond accountability, and [the case of Khaled Said] was so brazen it provoked public opinion, and people began to feel this could also happen to them or [their] loved ones."

Egypt's People's Assembly voted in May to extend the country's State of Emergency for another two years.  Egypt has been officially under a state of emergency since 1967, except for a brief period before the assassination of President Anwar Sadat in 1981.

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