As the Ministry of Interior announced plans for mobile police stations to deal with civilian concerns, three prisoners died in Tanta, Qalyubia, and Gharbia from 12-14 October.
The latest round of incidents took place on Friday when a prisoner named Sameh Gaber, 28, was found dead in Tanta police station.
Gaber’s family accuses police personnel of torturing him to death. He was arrested four days before his death on charges of theft. The family says that he refused to confess to stealing a mobile phone and was subsequently tortured.
The Ministry of Interior’s media office did not disclose any information about the incident. However, officials at the Gharbia Security Directorate ordered an investigation into the affair, claiming that Gaber committed suicide in a toilet.
Following the death of Gaber, dozens of his relatives gathered at the Tanta public mortuary protesting the incident. Riot police surrounded the hospital to prevent the family members from clashing with officials.
On the same day, a 61-year-old prisoner died in Burles police station after suffering “a severe heart attack” according to the official narrative. The deceased was an owner of a café. The prosecution is investigating the incident, while the initial hospital report admits that he had a history of heart complications.
The third incident took place on Wednesday when a prisoner in Al-Khanka police station reportedly died due to lack of ventilation in the detention centre. The Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms said that the prisoner had suffered from dyspnoea [difficulty breathing] and died due to “a lack of air”, accusing the authorities of not providing medical care.
Deaths in detention are almost unheard of in print and televised state media, which only report the incidents if the situation escalates—namely if the relatives of the deceased riot or protest demanding the officials to be held accountable.
At the beginning of the year, a non-commissioned police officer shot and killed a driver in the lower class area of Al-Darb Al-Ahmar. Following the killing, most media outlets cited that the officers mistakenly shot the driver during a brawl, citing anonymous sources.
However, after the initial protest, the number of the decreased driver’s family and friends who made their objection known grew in scale, and officials faced the danger of a riot forming. At this point, state officials and media began changing their narrative and blaming the officer for the incident, calling the killing an “individual act” not indicative of institutionalised corruption and police brutality against civilians. .
Afterwards state and private media launched a wave of attacks on non-commissioned police officers, accusing only those ranked at the lowest tier of the violations perpetrated by the police apparatus, and of distorting the image of police officers in society.