Saturday, September 04, 2010

Egyptian Police on Trial for Torture, Again

The "usual" item of news is, a group of policemen decided to randomly stop a young man called Shadi Maged in the street and check his IDs. They told him to accompany them to the police station, which he refused, simply because he was not accused of any crime. Of course they started hitting him and kidnapped him to the station, where he was repeatedly beaten and abused for ten whole days. He would pass out under torture, only to come about and be tortured again. He told the prosecutors what happened, but even this did not save him. The policemen falsely accused him of theft and drug possession. After months of ordeal, threats and detaining him with his wife and toddler for four days, he was finally released.

The unusual item of news is, Shadi refused to let the abuses go unquestioned. He identified the names of three high-ranking policemen who were involved in his torture and decided to file a lawsuit against them. The first session was on September 1st, and it was adjourned to the 22nd of the same month.

This means that Egyptian police will witness quite an embarassing week this month. On the same week, precisely on the 25th of September, the second session in the high-profile case of the murder of Khaled Said takes place.

I'd like to point to a detail that may seem secondary. In the case of Khaled Said, the policemen behind bars until now are low-ranking policemen whom witnesses saw beat Khaled to death. The high-ranking policeman, Ahmad Othman, who reportedly ordered the attack, somehow avoided being accused. He gave the prosecution a silly alibi of being on a vacation the night Khaled died, as if he could not order the killing by mobile phone. In the case of Shadi, however, all of the defendants are high-ranking policemen, which may make it more difficult to make them pay for forever traumatising an innocent man.

Both judges and policemen are elitist. In recent years, poor or middle class Egyptians have been the overwhelming majority of targets of torture and abuse. Judges pass more severe sentences against poor people. For instance, a boatman received a ten year sentence when his crumbling boat capsised and killed a bunch of girls, whereas powerful businessman Mamdouh Ismail recieved a fleeting 7 years when one thousand and thirty four people died in the February 2006 Ferry disaster, a sentence he will not even do, having easily escaped soon after the disaster. Similarly, policemen most probably mistreat people from the working class or underprivilidged people. I cannot imagine Hisham Talaat Mustafa being mistreated at any point during his detention.

This is why I implore upon everyone reading this post to blog about Shadi's case, link to this post on your twitter and or Facebook accounts or to the original story in Arabic, attend the second session, do something. Anything. This case has got to be known, for visbility is one way of attaining power.

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