Torture cases on the rise but Interior Ministry denies

Adham Youssef
5 Min Read
Policemen arrest a supporter of ousted president Morsi during a protest in Ramses Square on 4 November 4, 2013 in Cairo. (AFP Photo)

Two people died last weekend in police stations, amid allegation of torture by the victims’ families, who accused security forces of arresting and torturing their relatives to death. The Ministry of Interior denied the claims, asserting that the cases are being looked into by the prosecution.

In Luxor police station, a prisoner died on Wednesday, hours after being arrested by the police. The prosecution is currently looking into the case, the ministry said Saturday. The prosecution and the forensic medicine department will determine the cause of death.

The victim, Talaat Shebah, was arrested from on the street before reported dead by the police.

The death of Shebah sparked anger in Luxor, leading to minor protests and demonstrations in the streets Thursday and Friday. More than a dozen protesters were arrested in front of the hospital, where Shebah died, and released later by the prosecution.

Shebah’s funeral was attended by more than 2,000 people, who chanted against the police and marched to the police station. Rocks were thrown at the station leading to clashes. The prosecution unit in Luxor summoned four officers for interrogation.

Similarly in Ismailia, veterinarian Ali Hosni was assaulted on Thursday inside his privately-owned pharmacy and was escorted by a police officer who allegedly beat him to death.

A security camera video circulated online, showing the police officer entering the pharmacy, insulting, and assaulting Hosni. He was reported dead hours after being taken to the police station. Local reports said that Hosni’s wife accused the police officer who “killed her husband”.

The Pharmacists Syndicate in Ismailia also accused the officer, saying that Hosni “was doing his job as a pharmacist when a police officer stormed into his workplace and assaulted him”.

Commenting on the issue, the interior ministry said the case is also being investigated and that the officer was suspended until investigations conclude. The state media reported that the Prosecutor General ordered an investigation into the incident as well as an autopsy to determine the cause of death.

However, the Ismailia Security Directorate said on Thursday that Hosni suffered a “heart attack” and that he was suspected of selling narcotics. “While being inside the police station he fell and suffered a stroke,” their statement read.

It said there were three witnesses who saw the incident, two defendants who were detained in the police station and an interior ministry administrative worker. “After background checks were done”, it was found that Hosni and his wife, who owns the pharmacy, were previously accused of selling Tramadol pills, according to the statement.

The contradiction in the narratives of different security entities is often repeated in many incidents that gains the public’s attention. The interior ministry usually claims that defendants die from stroke, heart attacks, or circular failure while the families and lawyers of the detainees assert the victims were beaten or tortured.

A medical source, who requested anonymity, told Daily News Egypt that official reports usually mention that the “cause of death is failure in the blood circulation of the body”. However, in many cases, official reports fail to mention the “underlying cause of death”, which can be injuries to the chest, drowning, and diabetes.

This contradiction was highly noticed in the case of Kareem Hamdy who died in the Mataryia police station last February. Initial police reports said he died of “failure of blood circulation”. However, the Forensic Medicine department said he was beaten and suffered internal bleeding.

In February, El-Nadeem Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence released a report on cases of torture and abuse in Egyptian prison and detention facilities. The report, which documented at least 82 cases during the month, included accounts from all across Egypt.

The Cairo Criminal Court is currently holding trial of the two Homeland Security officers accused of torturing a Hamdy to death.

According to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) end-of-year report in December 2014, over 100 deaths in custody cases have been reported in the media and by human rights groups in 2014. The deaths occurred mainly as a result of torture, medical negligence, and inhumane and unhygienic detention conditions, the report said.

Since the beginning of 2015, several incidents of prisoners dying in police custody have been reported.

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