|Alexandria residents got word of Ahmed Shaaban’s death after a local blogger posted video online of interviews with Shaaban’s relatives [Mohamed Abdelfattah]|
Police in the Egyptian city of Alexandria have been accused of beating to death an unarmed man, bringing to the fore once again the issue of police brutality two weeks before parliamentary elections in the country.
The body of 19-year-old Ahmed Shaaban was discovered in the city’s Mahmoudia Canal last week, and family members say police dumped it there after torturing Shaaban and beating him to death.
Now, security forces are allegedly pressuring the family to drop a case against the police and have prevented residents and human rights activists from staging demonstrations in protest.
A demonstration planned for Sunday was prevented by security officers who surrounded Shaaban’s neighbourhood and prevented most people from approaching his family’s house, local blogger Mohamed Abdelfattah told Al Jazeera.
Shaaban first went missing on November 6, said Mena Gerges, a lawyer who has been appointed to represent Shaaban’s family.
Shaaban and his friend, a man named Farag, were detained while riding a motorbike on the way to attend the wedding of a friend’s sister, according to Gerges and Abdelfattah, who first repoted the story of Shaaban’s death.
Though Gerges said the reason for the two men’s arrest is still unknown, Shaaban’s relatives told Abdelfattah that Farag and Shaaban argued with the police about why they were being stopped, and that officers brought both back to the Sidi Gaber police station, where they were beaten.
Farag remains in custody and has been charged with theft for stealing a cell phone, an allegation Shaaban’s family says is false.
On November 9, three days after Shaaban’s disappearance, his family received a phone call from Shaaban’s mobile phone number. A police officer told them that Shaaban’s phone, jacket and identification card had been discovered in the Mahmoudia Canal.
News spreads through YouTube video
On Saturday, Abdelfattah posted a video on YouTube showing edited interviews he conducted with some of Shaaban’s relatives after the Shaaban’s funeral. After the video, news of Shaaban’s suspicious death quickly spread.
Ahmed Qutb, another lawyer for the family, told Abdelfattah in the video that police have claimed Shaaban jumped into the canal.
“There are photos and evidence [that] confirm that he didn’t commit suicide,” Qutb said. “It proves he [was] either pushed by state security personnel or was tortured then thrown there”.
Gerges said he filed several complaints, including with the interior ministry and Sidi Gaber station, after Shaaban disappeared.
Police claim that Shaaban and his friend were arrested after snatching a woman’s handbag and running away, Gerges said.
|Relatives of Ahmed Shaaban told a local blogger that they believe he was tortured [Mohamed Abdelfattah]|
According to the Egyptian Daily News, after Shaaban disappeared, members of his family twice inquired about his whereabouts at the Sidi Gaber police station and saw his motorbike parked outside.
Family members interviewed by Abdelfattah said Shaaban’s body bore numerous signs of torture. His head was smashed, his arms “ripped” and parts of his body bore burn marks.
Gerges said there were bruises on Shaaban’s head, left arm and under his testicles.
The Sidi Gaber police station has gained notoriety after another young man, Khaled Said, died in June. Two plainsclothes police officers from the station have been charged with beating and torturing the 28-year-old man after dragging him from an internet cafe.
Said’s case drew international attention to the issue of police brutality in Egypt, a country that has been ruled by president Hosni Mubarak under emergency law since 1982.
“To president Hosni Mubarak, you are asleep, and the country is devastated, and you know what is going on, you know what is happening,” Shaaban’s uncle said in the video, according to an English translation. “You are employing people to threaten us, so you can stay on your chairs, and we die”.
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