CAIRO: Ihab Magdy Farouq, a 19-year-old Imbaba resident, is currently incarcerated at the Al-Qata prison in Qalyoubia province, north of Cairo. According to the North Giza prosecutor’s office, his crime was petty theft and involvement in a street fight.
But according to his legal team, and human rights activists familiar with the case, Ihab is simply guilt of speaking out about his abuse in prison.
That abuse was captured on a camera phone and broadcast to the world last fall over countless blogs and internet video sites. “He is accused of four counts of theft and fighting, and we have appealed them all, said his lawyer, Nov Fenari, who has been provided by the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights. “But Ihab was a victim of torture. That is the real reason he is being held.
The short video shows Farouq being struck repeatedly on the neck and face during questioning inside the Imbaba police station, as an officer shouts insults at him.
The video’s existence became widely known as it was passed between cell phones and posted on blogs. It has been viewed more than fifteen thousand times on the popular video site YouTube.
Farouq was first identified as the man in the film in a report published on Thursday February 1 by independent Arabic-language daily Al Masry Al Youm. The day the report appeared, Farouq was called in to the Imbaba police station for questioning.
Fearing for his safety, he instead fled his home in the sprawling slum.
According to human rights activists, after Farouq fled Imbaba police detained his father and wife, who were interrogated overnight. The next day, Feb. 2, the two were released and his brother Mohamed Magdy Farouq was detained. Fearing for his brother’s safety, Farouq returned home where he was arrested.
Farouq is being represented in court by a legal team from the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights. According to them, the three police corporals implicated in the abuse, Ahmad Abdel Fattah, Ahmad el-Wardani, and a third who goes by the alias Dahesh, have all been detained pending further investigation.
Their supervising officer, who filmed the abuse on his mobile phone, Lieutenant Kareem Abdullah Abdel Mohsen, has been transferred from Imbaba to another Cairo police station.
Ali Zalat, the investigative reporter who broke the story in Al-Masry Al-Youm, was also briefly detained and questioned over night last week in the Imbaba police station. He is considered a “witness in the case, although it is not clear how the prosecutor will respond to the appeal or what new charges may emerge.
“These charges are all politically motivated. Said Hafez Abu Se’ada, the Secretary General of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights and the lead counsel to Farouq.
“The police are punishing Ihab because he came forward to talk about being tortured.
“If people know that this is what happens to those who complain about torture to the press and to human rights groups, then they will stop coming forward.
Farouq’s lawyers complain that the veil of secrecy around the case is so prohibitive that not even they are able to know what is happening.
“We don’t know how much merit these charges have because until now we have not been allowed to see his files in the police station, said Abu Se’ada. “Right now the charges are not clear. I don’t trust them, though. I think the allegations may have been made up by the police so that they can hold him.
Meanwhile, the prosecutor’s office says that their response to the lawyers’ appeals has been completed, but it will not say when the statement will be released.
Hafez Abu Se’ada expects Farouq to stand trial for the four charges some time in February, although a court date has not been firmly set.
“The torture investigation is ongoing, he said. “But right now we are just trying to get him out of prison.