CAIRO/WASHINGTON: Police fired tear gas at protesters in the Nile Delta city of Tanta Monday after the funeral of an Egyptian activist who slipped into a coma and died after several days in custody, witnesses said.Mohammad al-Guindi, 28, was arrested in Cairo’s Tahrir Square during protests demanding change on the second anniversary of the Egypt’s uprising. The opposition says his death Monday proves police have not reformed.
The death came as police faced a backlash after riot policemen were filmed beating and dragging a naked man during clashes Friday outside the presidential palace in Cairo, prompting a minister to resign, according to state media.
The official MENA news agency reported that Culture Minister Mohammad Saber Arab tendered his resignation Monday over the incident. The state’s Al-Ahram newspaper reported on its website that Saber resigned over police abuse.
In Tanta, witnesses said that police fired tear gas at a march that approached the provincial headquarters, following the Egyptian activist’s burial in the city.
Guindi’s lawyers say that after his arrest he was taken to a police camp in Al-Gabal al-Ahmar in Cairo, where he was subjected to torture before being sent several days later to Cairo’s Al-Helal hospital.
According to the Health Ministry, Guindi arrived at the hospital unconscious and suffering from internal bleeding. The Popular Current, to which Guindi belonged, said the activist died “as a result of torture.”
The United States Monday strongly condemned violence against protesters and called on the government to investigate and hold those responsible to account.
“We strongly condemn the recent violence and the attacks that have taken place in Egypt. We are extremely disturbed by these incidents, including sexual assaults against women and the beating of a defenseless man last week,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
The presidency said in a Facebook statement that it had asked the public prosecutor to probe Guindi’s death, stressing there is “no return to rights abuses of citizens and their freedoms ... after the Jan. 25 revolution.”
Two years ago, Egyptians poured into the streets demanding a complete overhaul of the Interior Ministry, whose police officers were accused of systematic abuse under a culture of impunity.
But rights groups say images of Guindi’s face bruised and battered on a hospital bed and the footage of Hamada Saber’s beating show how little has changed.
In a report published on the anniversary of the uprising, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights said police violence was still rampant: “The Egyptian police continue to systematically deploy violence and torture, and at times even kill.”
Within hours of the news of Guindi’s death, furious activists took to social networking sites to condemn police brutality and call for change.
Guindi “is not the first to die [of torture] under Mursi. But he is a political activist, that’s why you know his name,” tweeted EIPR director Hossam Bahgat.
“Youth still tortured & killed in quest for human dignity. Regime oblivious that violence begets violence & brutality is sure to backfire,” leading dissident and former U.N. nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei said on Twitter.
Hundreds met in Tahrir Square for funeral prayers for Guindi and another activist who was shot dead in protests over the weekend, including Popular Current chief Hamdeen Sabbahi.
“Either we get justice for them, or we die like them,” the mourners chanted.