Conflicting statements from the Ministry of Interior, Ain Shams University and colleagues and family of senior year engineering student Islam Ateeto, who was shot dead on 20 May, ranged from accusing him of being a terrorist who killed a police officer, to a martyr who was executed by police death squads.
Daily News Egypt received testimonies from eyewitnesses to his abduction from outside the university and people who saw the CCTV recordings of the day that shows his appearance in the university. Through these testimonies and statements of different parties, Daily News Egypt attempts to piece together the full story of Ateeto’s death.
The young man killed
Ateeto was taking an exam on 19 May morning at hall 260 A at the Faculty of Engineering at Ain Shams University near Abasseya square, east north Cairo. It was then that “an unidentified man, accompanied by a university staff member, asked that the student Islam Salah Al-Din Ateeto go with the man to the student affairs office after the exam to provide a copy of his national ID”, the SU statement said. It added that students had noticed the man waiting outside the exam room.
Ateeto was missing for all of Tuesday after the exam, with his friends and family unaware of his whereabouts. It was not until the early hours of the next morning that he was first announced dead by the Ministry of Interior.
War of statements
The ministry accused the student of killing police officer Wael Tahoon. Homeland Security Colonel Tahoon was shot dead in his car in April by unknown assailants in front of his house in the district of Ain Shams.
“The hideout of one of the members of the committees that are involved in the accident (Islam Salah Al-Din Ateeto) was located on a desert road, and upon the forces bursting into the hideout, he initiated fire at the forces who responded with firing leading to his killing and confiscating the machine gun he was using,” the ministry’s statement read.
Ten days before the incident, state-run newspaper Al-Ahram published the news of the arrests of Tahoon’s killers, mentioning five “Brotherhood elements” who confessed to the crime.
After news of the student’s death spread, the faculty’s student union denounced the ministry’s narrative, describing it as “a story falsely and deceitfully fabricated by the ministry”.
“All of the words in the world are never enough to describe the lies, slander and criminality that the state practices on the youth,” their statement read. “Cold-blooded killings and indictments without fair trials are fascist acts and cannot be described as anything less.”
The faculty’s administration also released a statement on the issue, but focused mainly on denying that the student was arrested from inside the faculty. This shook off any responsibility for what happened to him.
“Talking with the head of the examination committee, observers and through making sure via the closed circuit cameras on the faculty’s gates, with one of the students’ attendance, the student walked out after finishing the exam with his colleagues on Tuesday 19 May exactly at 11:23am,” the administration’s statement read.
Eyewitness and testimonies
The student mentioned in the faculty’s statement spoke to Daily News Egypt, preferring to remain anonymous, giving his testimony on what happened.
He said that upon hearing the news about Ateeto’s death, he talked to the faculty’s undersecretary Ayman Wahba, telling him that if the cameras show that the student was in the faculty that undermines the Ministry of Interior’s narrative.
“I insisted on entering the faculty’s administration meeting on the issue and threatened that I will make troubles in the faculty if I didn’t watch the recordings of the cameras,” he said.
“The cameras showed Islam walking out of the faculty at 11:23 wearing a blue shirt. After 35 seconds the cameras showed him running at the direction of the faculty trying to make a phone call and one of two people hurrying behind him was trying to catch him,” he added.
He also said that different witnesses confirmed he was arrested near a stationary shop named Al-Sabah. He described a scene where Ateeto was thrown into one of two cars that were there for the mission.
A witness, who spoke to Daily News Egypt on condition of anonymity, said: “When I was going to copy some papers with my friend, I saw just for three seconds that someone running in front of me was wearing a blue shirt and had long hair, but I didn’t see his face clearly. Another one was chasing him directly, then there were two after him and a motorcycle with two people on it going after them too. According to my friend, he saw a car moving after them and a walky-talky was in the hand of one of the people inside the car, and then he saw them run into the back street of the college and I didn’t watch the rest. But the next day, when I saw the pictures of Islam on Facebook, I recognised that it was him from his hair, face and body.”
On 21 May, and upon receiving the body from the morgue, Ateeto’s mother said that his body had two broken ribs and a broken left arm. She added that there was also damage to the skull.
The Faculty of Engineering said that on 23 May, the General Prosecution received a copy of all the camera recordings of the incident as it listened to testimonies of the faculty officials.
On 25 May, the prosecution summoned the security force officers who allegedly killed Ateeto to listen to their testimonies, as it also summoned a number of the student’s colleagues.
The day after, a Forensic Medicine Authority report mentioned five bullets killed the student, but did not mention traces of torture.
On Thursday, the prosecution referred the case to the State Security prosecution to continue the investigations, with the case investigations still ongoing.