A criminal court has sentenced two officers from the Homeland Security apparatus at the Interior Ministry to five-years in prison for the killing of lawyer Kareem Hamdy earlier this year.
Hamdy died after sustaining beatings and being tortured while detained in Matariya police station on 24 February 2015.
More than seven lawyers representing the Lawyers’ Syndicate, along with a dozen journalists and three leading TV channels, were present at the trial, held at the Police Academy on Saturday.
Judge Osama Shahin, who presided over the court session, said defendants Omar Hamad and Mohamed Mohamadein were charged with voluntarily beating the victim to death, according to articles 126 and 234 of the Penal Code.
The case had been referred to trial by former prosecutor general Hisham Barakat, after accusations that the officers had tortured Hamdy to force him to provide information on various “wanted” suspects.
According to lawyers present from the Lawyers’ Syndicate, the judge adjusted the charge from “torture” to “beating to death”. Mohamed Osman, head of the Lawyers’ Syndicate for north Cairo, said the conviction is a strong message from the state and a warning to police officers.
“When the syndicate took part in the case, we were not just defending a colleague or an individual case, but rather expressing our condemnation of systematic torture in detention places. We were defending the rule of law, and the verdict reveals such practices by the police,” Osman told Daily News Egypt after the trial.
Asked why the charge upheld by the court did not include torture or voluntary murder, Osman explained that the assessment of the defendants’ motives and intentions is a matter in the hands of the judge. “In that case, the judge could have established that the initial purpose of the beating was to extract information and not to kill,” he added.
On the other hand, Ahmed Mehanna, head of the syndicate in Al-Marg and a lawyer close to Hamdy’s family, was disappointed with the five-year sentence.
“But even if the verdict is not as harsh as we expected, it is still a victory for the lawyers, justice, and the rule of law,” Mehanna said in comments to Daily News Egypt.
Mehanna recalled that he had seen Hamdy’s body in the morgue. “We started to move the case forward quickly. We refused to allow the body to be handled without a full and accurate medical report, and in fact, procedures against the officers were prompt, as they were arrested and detained for a month,” he said.
Mehanna further said the family has filed a lawsuit demanding compensation of EGP 100,000, which was accepted on Saturday by the judge and referred to the specialised court.
The two defendants, who had been previously released from detention, were not present in court on Saturday, but the verdict is final unless reversed by the Court of Cassation. “In such cases, the defendants do not have to attend, but they are required to turn themselves in, and they are banned from travelling,” Osman stated.
As for Mehanna, the release of defendants accused of murder, remains “suspicious”. The verdict comes amid a sensitive period for police and security officers, with an increase in the number of deaths in custody and claims of torture.
According to the Forensic Medicine Authority, autopsy reports on Hamdy’s body showed several injuries in different parts of the body leading to internal bleeding. Hamdy was hit in the chest, causing his ribs to break and a laceration in his lung resulting in severe internal bleeding. Other haemorrhages were discovered in the heart and testicles.
Osman said the delay in the patient’s medical examination and autopsy report could have been manipulated to allow for charges against the defendants to be dropped.
“Moreover, a major eye-witness in the case, a fellow prisoner, was pressured to change his testimony before court. This is why we are satisfied that the law was enforced todyay,” Osman stated.
Hamdy was arrested on 22 February, allegedly on charges of belonging to an outlawed group and possession of weapons. He reportedly died two days later.