Egyptian protesters clashed with soldiers and police in Cairo on Friday after a funeral procession for a man a rights group claims died from police torture after he was caught smuggling a mobile phone chip into his cell.
Dozens of protesters hurled stones at soldiers and police after relatives of Essam Atta brought his coffined body to Tahrir Square, where thousands were rallying to demand the military cede power to a civilian government.
The protesters, who had branched off from the rally to join the procession, chanted “the people demand the execution of the field marshal,” referring to the country’s military ruler, Hussein Tantawi.
Soldiers and policemen fired a few warning shots in the air as the protesters pelted them with stones.
Other protesters eventually persuaded the stone-throwers to back off.
One was dragged away by his comrades flailing and screaming: “They have killed another of my countrymen! Screw the military!”
Atta’s family had brought his body from a morgue where it had undergone a quick autopsy, witnesses said.
The Nadeem Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence said on its Facebook page on Thursday that Atta died after policemen pumped water through hoses inserted in his mouth and anus, a claim denied by a security official.
Atta “was subjected to savage torture; water hoses were inserted into his mouth and anus, and he was then transferred without his parents’ knowledge to [a Cairo hospital], where he died,” the group said.
It said he was tortured after he smuggled the phone chip into prison.
The interior ministry said Atta, who was convicted by a military court for “thuggery and illegally occupying an apartment,” died on Thursday as a “result of an unknown poison.”
A prison doctor found that Atta was suffering from “an apparent severe drug poisoning,” the statement on the ministry’s website said.