CAIRO: Eighteen Egyptian human rights groups on Sunday blamed the abdication by the public prosecution office of its role in combating torture and police transgressions, for the increasing rate of torture by police.
“The essence of torture in Egypt is the relinquishing by the public prosecution office of its role, lawyer and PA member Sobhy Saleh told attendees of a seminar on police torture held at the Hisham Mubarak Law Center on Sunday, during which victims of police violence gave their testimony.
“Torture is carried out by a bunch of cowards and criminals who could be stopped if the public prosecution office searched places of detention as it is supposed to do by law and if district prosecutors went to crime incidents, he continued.
Nine people gave testimony during the seminar; two Alexandria-based police officers, Ahmed Osman and Ahmed Melissy from the Sidi Gaber police station, were implicated in two of these incidents.
Samah Khalil described the injuries received by her father, Khalil, at the hands of a police force seeking the arrest of her brother, Shabaan.
“On Oct. 24, 2008, a huge group of men wearing civilian clothing arrived at 11 pm at our house. They looked like a criminal gang, carrying sticks, knives and bottles of petrol, Samah Khalil told the seminar.
“As soon as dad opened the door, they threw a Molotov cocktail at him. His hands and legs set on fire and he ripped off his clothes as he tried to escape onto the roof.
“They followed him and got a piece of metal from a clothes-line and used it to break his leg before dragging him down the street by his legs for more than 150 meters while they kicked him in the head and hit him using their sticks, she continued.
Bystanders who tried to intervene were pelted with stones.
When Khalil went to the police station she was told that her father’s burn injuries had not received the required dressings and that he had not been given either pain relief or antibiotics.
She says that for three days he was taken from the police station to the public prosecution office – on charges of resisting authority – despite the fact that his knee was broken and he should not have been moved.
“Osman and Melissy brought charges of heroin dealing against my brother and charged my 62-year-old father – burnt and broken and dragged the length of the street – with resisting authority.
The failure to properly dress Khalil’s burn injuries resulted in them being infected. Samah Khalil, who is also a nurse, said that she was only allowed to change them herself and give him antibiotics and painkillers after she threatened to kill herself in front of the police station.
“I gave him an antibiotic and something for his temperature and applied dressings to uncovered burns. But in the areas of his body which had received dressings, the flesh and the dressings had fused together – how could I change them?
Khalil is currently being held in Ras El-Tin Prison.
Salah Mohamed Ahmed, a shop owner, was also detained by officers Osman and Melithy and others, on Oct. 17, 2008.
In a testimony carried by the Nadim Center for the Victims of Violence from Ahmed, who was not at the seminar, the victim said that he was beaten and tortured in the microbus on the way to the police station and in the station itself.
“One of them sat on top of me and strangled me while someone else said ‘kill him.’. He tried to strangle me three times and they took turns punching me in the head, Ahmed’s testimony reads.
“[In the police station] they hit me again . then Ahmed Osman put his finger in my anus and then Ahmed Melissy did that, too . then they demanded that 14 others in the room do the same thing. The beating eventually stopped at around 10:30 pm.
It eventually transpired that the police officers had got Ahmed mixed up with another, similarly-named man, wanted in connection with criminal charges.
He and his two sons were threatened with criminal detention if he brought charges against the police officers.
Mervat Abdel Fattah from Samalout died when a police force allegedly composed of five men looking for her husband’s brother stormed into her flat.
Abdel Fattah’s widower, Hassan Sayyed Reyad, told the seminar that his wife, who was pregnant, died 10 minutes after being kicked in the stomach by the policemen, causing her to lose consciousness.
The fatal assault was witnessed by her son, Sayyed, approximately eight years old, who was with her at the time of the incident.
Sayyed also described what happened to his mother during the seminar before erupting into tears.
Father of five Hamada Abdel Latif relayed how he now suffers quadriplegic paralysis after a police force physically assaulted him as he tried to take his children to school.
The closure of the El-Gazeera school in Alexandria had been ordered by Alexandria’s governor in September but this decision was subsequently quashed in court.
On Sept. 24, 2008, parents took their children to school. Abdel Latif’s wife says in a statement given to El Nadim, which was only signed as Abdel Latif’s wife without mentioning her name, that there was a huge security presence, and that police officers prevented parents and children from entering the school.
During clashes which broke out between the police and parents Abdel Latif’s wife says that everyone – including children – was assaulted and hit with Taser sticks.
“A group of men attacked my husband, including police officer El-Sayyed Mohamed El-Sayyed, deputy chief of the Minya El-Basal police station. He gave the orders for the beating, Abdel Latif’s wife says in the statement.
“[Abdel Latif] fainted and fell to the ground saying as he fell ‘I feel that my spine is broken’. The officer said, ‘hit him, kill the son of a dog’ and they hit him on his spine.
Abdel Latif was left in a police truck until 7 pm the same night, slipping in and out of consciousness.
While in hospital Abdel Latif says that he overheard police officers discussing whether or not to take him and throw him by the side of the road somewhere.
“I want a response. The man who committed this crime went home to his children and nobody asked him about anything. My husband is paralyzed, and I have five children. . The two youngest children don’t sleep at night and if they do, they wake up saying ‘state security have arrived and want to hit us.’. Mariam my youngest is scared of going near her father in the hospital.
Abdel Latif is under Prosecution office custody in hospital.
A trainee journalist with opposition daily El-Dostour, 20-year-old Hossam El-Wakeel, was also arrested while covering the El-Gazeera events and remains in detention in the Wady El-Natroun 2 Prison on charges of resisting authority.
The day prior to the seminar, lawyers presented a complaint to the Public Prosecution Office protesting increasing incidents of torture.
Three cases are currently lodged before the African Court on Human and People’s Rights concerning abuse by the Egyptian police of its powers.
“Rulings from the African Court create diplomatic embarrassment despite the fact that it is the weakest international judicial mechanism, lawyer Ahmed Seif El-Islam explained.
“We are asking the Prosecutor General not to ignore, or inadequately investigate torture cases and thereby force us to resort to international mechanisms – as his predecessor did.