Fri, Jul 02, 2010 - Page 6 News List

Two Egyptian policemen face charges in businessman’s controversial death

AP , CAIRO

Two plainclothes police officers were charged on Wednesday with illegal arrest and brutality in the death of a businessman in Alexandria in a case that has drawn attention from governments and human rights activists.

Khaled Said, 28, died on June 6. Witnesses said the two officers dragged Said out of a cafe and beat him to death. However, two state autopsies determined that he died of suffocation from swallowing a packet of drugs.

The autopsy results were met with derision after photos of Said’s body circulated, showing him covered with bruises, his teeth broken and jaw smashed.

The charges against the two plainclothes agents marked the first government acknowledgment of possible wrongdoing on the part of its police in the case.

The killing became a rallying point for government critics who denounced it as an example of rampant police abuses under a three-decade-old emergency law during Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s rule. The case led to street protests in Cairo and Alexandria.

The US State Department and rights groups including Amnesty International called for a transparent investigation.

Activists charged that the brutal killing was retaliation for Said’s embarrassing the police officers in an Internet posting.

The charge sheet filed by the Alexandria prosecutor accused Warrant Officer Mahmoud Salah and Sergeant. Awad Ismail Suleiman, of “illegal arrest, using physical torture and brutality.”

Even so, the government hotly rejected a statement on Monday by the EU ambassadors in Cairo that noted “discrepancies” between the autopsy reports and witness accounts, calling for an inquiry to be conducted “impartially, transparently and swiftly in a way that will credibly resolve the discrepancies.”

On Wednesday the Egyptian Foreign Ministry summoned EU envoys and informed them of Egypt’s response.

Hossam Zaki, the ministry’s spokesman, said the statement “constitutes a clear violation of the diplomatic norms and an unacceptable interference by foreign embassies in Egypt’s internal affairs.”

Lawyer Mohammed Abdel-Aziz of the Al-Nadim center for victims of torture said on Wednesday that the officers should be charged with more serious crimes because the killing was planned in advance.

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