The relationship between the police and Egyptian citizens has apparently taken a turn for the worse as a man mysteriously died after clashing with a senior officer. The incident wreaked havoc in front of El-Azbakia Police Station in downtown Cairo on Friday.
Forty-year-old chauffeur, Mohamed Saeed, according to accounts, entered into a fight with a senior police officer outside the downtown Cairo police station. Reportedly, he was later taken inside with 13 other mini-bus drivers for parking violations.
Shortly afterwards, Saeed was pronounced dead, yet it is not clear what caused his demise.
A crowd of hundreds, including his relatives and fellow drivers, accused the police of torturing him to death.
They gathered around the station in protest, asking to see the body and trying to force their way in. A police car was set on fire in the process as Molotov cocktails were thrown at the facilities.
Security sources denied any foul play and said Saeed seemed to have collapsed of low blood pressure. His body had been transferred to the morgue for an autopsy while the interior ministry said it was investigating the incident.
Mohamed Madkour, the senior police officer with whom Saeed fought, assured that the latter was not abused by any policemen, as alleged. “He physically assaulted me, which caused pedestrians on the streets to beat him up,” he told Al-Jazeera Mubasher TV.
“After he was arrested, he was set to be transferred to the general prosecution, but troopers escorting him told me over the phone that he was not well and needed medical care.
“I ordered them to take him to the hospital but he passed away before he was admitted.
“According to an initial medical report, he suffered from some bruises and injuries but they were definitely not the reason why he died … medical tests are still underway to determine the cause of death.
“His family members came to the station and we told them what happened. They seemed to have believed us but later they told a whole different story to the people in Tahrir Square, causing them to attack us.”
One of the victim’s cousins later phoned in and said: “He [Saeed] was tortured by the police. I’ve seen the body, it’s all covered by blue spots. There are also burn marks that indicate he was electrocuted.
“He was a healthy man, it doesn’t make sense that he died all of a sudden like that.”
The roads were unblocked in downtown near El-Azbakia Police Station after last night’s atrocity ended and the facilities were secured by police and military forces.
The unfortunate incident came in the wake of another case of alleged torture and murder of a man at the hands of police forces in Beau-Lac Police Station.
In response to the incident, activists call for a protest in front of the ministry of interior building on Monday, 6 June – the anniversary of Khaled Saeed’s torture and death.
Activists said the minister of interior’s statement – which held that the police are not accountable for yesterday’s death – is unacceptable. They also called for the Minister of Interior Mansour El-Eissawi’s resignation.
Furthermore, they demand that all policemen convicted of torture see harsh retribution and be sacked from the police force.
According to eyewitnesses, Khaled Saeed’s death on 6 June 2010 was a result of a vicious attack by two robust policemen who beat him to death at the entrance of a residential building before several pedestrians. He was 28.
It is deemed the most famous police brutality incident in Egypt, causing widespread wrath and the youth to organise themselves on Facebook to stage peaceful protests. It’s even believed to be one of the reasons behind the 25 January Revolution.
Under former minister of interior Habib El-Adli, the ministry routinely covered up torture practiced by the police and security forces over the past years. Many people believe the same inhuman practices are still common up until now.