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Middle East

Egypt jails policemen for death that triggered uprising

Policemen Awad Suliman, right, and Mahmoud Salah, second left, stand in a barred cage during the sentencing hearing of their retrial in the landmark case of the beating to death of 28-year-old Khaled Said, in the port city of Alexandria, Egypt, Monday, March 3, 2014. (AP Photo/Amira Mortada, El Shorouk Newspaper)

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt: Two Egyptian policemen were sentenced to 10 years in prison Monday for torturing an activist to death in 2010 in an incident that became one of the triggers for the uprising that toppled veteran autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Witnesses and rights groups said that 28-year-old Khaled Said died after police dragged him out of an Internet cafe in Alexandria and beat him to death.

Before he died, Said posted an Internet video purportedly showing two policemen sharing the spoils of a drug bust.

His death galvanized anger, in particular through the Facebook page “We are all Khaled Said” that focused attention on the rights violations by the police that many said were commonplace at the time.

That campaign, tapping into a tech-savvy but disillusioned youth, plus a myriad other strikes, groupings and protests, morphed into nationwide marches calling for the dissolution of parliament and disbanding of the state security agency.

Government autopsies carried out before the 2011 uprising found that Said had choked on a plastic bag full of hashish and his injuries were not the cause of his death.

The two policemen were sentenced to seven years in prison in 2011, but a court canceled the ruling after an appeal and ordered a retrial. They were then sentenced to 10 years.

“We wanted the death penalty ... 10 years is too little,” Said’s sister Zahra told Reuters.

“Still this is a victory for the January 25 revolution because the symbol that they tried to tarnish turned out to be innocent,” she added, referring to the revolt against Mubarak.

Under Mubarak, human rights groups accused the police of torture.

Activists say security forces are again abusing power since the army ousted President Mohammad Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood last July following mass protests against him.

Authorities deny the accusations and say they are committed to democracy as Egypt moves toward presidential and parliamentary elections expected in a few months.

While much of the population lionizes the police now, Islamist militants based in the Sinai Peninsula have stepped up attacks on police and soldiers since army chief Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi deposed Morsi. Hundreds have been killed.

A policeman was shot dead by gunmen in the southern city of Beni Suef Monday and another one in the town of Hawamidiya near Cairo. Two other policemen were wounded in separate shooting attacks in Giza and the Nile Delta province of Daqahliyah.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 04, 2014, on page 9.

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Summary

Two Egyptian policemen were sentenced to 10 years in prison Monday for torturing an activist to death in 2010 in an incident that became one of the triggers for the uprising that toppled veteran autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Witnesses and rights groups said that 28-year-old Khaled Said died after police dragged him out of an Internet cafe in Alexandria and beat him to death.

Government autopsies carried out before the 2011 uprising found that Said had choked on a plastic bag full of hashish and his injuries were not the cause of his death.

Under Mubarak, human rights groups accused the police of torture.


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