CAIRO: Members of the Lawyers’ Syndicate Freedoms Committee organized a protest outside the Supreme Court on Wednesday against what it regards as the public prosecutor s failure to hold policemen accused of torture and other human rights violations accountable for their actions.
Over 30 lawyers and human rights activists stood on the court’s steps bearing placards showing photographs of torture victims and bearing slogans such as “Together against torture and oppression and “Where’s the public prosecutor s office?
Lawyer Montasser El-Zayaat, the president of the Freedoms Committee, entered the Supreme Court to present a complaint to the public prosecutor s office concerning the case of Reda Bakir Shehata, an 18-year-old resident of the impoverished Matareyya district of Cairo.
Last month, a police force arrested Shehata’s sister-in-law, placing her in a privately-owned microbus driven by Mohamed Moheb Mahmoud. Shehata clung on to the front of the microbus in an attempt to prevent it from moving.
The police officer inside the microbus ordered Mahmoud to drive despite his protest that this would endanger Shehata. She was killed when she fell under the wheels of the microbus.
The complaint presented to the public prosecutor s office alleges that during the investigation, eyewitnesses were intimidated and threatened by police officers. They were told drug charges would be fabricated against them if they did not give testimonies absolving the Matareyya police of any responsibility for the death, according to the complaint.
The microbus driver has been charged with manslaughter.
Shehata’s lawyer, Hossam Hendawy, and the Freedoms Committee have addressed six demands to the public prosecutor, including a request that the Matareyya public prosecution office be removed from the case and replaced by another investigative authority.
Another demand was that Shehata’s family be protected from the constant intimidation of policemen based in the district’s police station.
Mahmoud Thabet, spokeman for the Freedoms Committee, told Daily News Egypt that the Committee is holding the public prosecutor responsible for the increase in cases of torture, illegal detention and other violations because of its failure to bring to justice those accused of these crimes.
“The rotten relationship between the police and the public prosecutor means that policemen are almost never brought to justice for their crimes, Thabet added. “We send complaints to the public prosecutor describing violations and it just does not respond. It ignores the complaint … Even when it does act on them, policemen are treated differently from other criminals, summoned to give evidence in the case as witnesses rather than being charged with a crime.
Thabet also accused the public prosecutor of failing to protect detainees by almost never upholding its legal duty to inspect places of detention, and said that legislative shortcomings further exacerbate the problem of the spread of torture.
“Policemen who commit violations are often prosecuted on charges of fatal beating which carries a maximum sentence of only 15 years, Thabet explained.
“Recently an officer was sentenced to seven years in prison for the death of a man in Mansoura, which is extremely lenient considering the maximum sentence that could have been handed down.
“We want policemen accused of these violations to be tried on charges of murder, which carries a maximum sentence of the death penalty. Heavier sentences will act as a deterrent.