Egyptian policemen jailed over activist death

Court convicts two policemen over the killing of Khaled Said, whose case helped spark revolt against Hosni Mubarak.

Said’s death sparked protests against police brutality that culminated with Mubarak’s fall from power [EPA]

An Egyptian court has convicted two policemen of beating an Egyptian man to death and sentenced them to seven years in prison, according to the lawyer of the man whose killing inspired the country’s uprising.

Hafiz Abu-Saada, the lawyer, said the court convicted the two on Wednesday of manslaughter over Khaled Said’s death in June 2010, rejecting the more serious charge of murder.

Said’s family and witnesses have accused police of torturing and beating Said to death after an argument at an Alexandria internet cafe. Photos showed his body badly disfigured and his face bloodied.

Police claimed the 28-year-old choked on a packet of drugs he swallowed as they approached him, a finding contested in recent forensic reports that showed the packet was forced into his mouth.

Said’s death became a rallying cry for activists behind the January 25 uprising that culminated with the resignation of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s decades-long president, on February 11.

Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros, reporting from Cairo, said some people were angry at the verdict, which they considered to be too lenient. Lawyers for Said had expected the judge would charge the accused with murder, our correspondent said.

Sherine Tadros reports on the verdict

“The seven-year verdict means that the judge in the case has decide not to up the charge, and yet has given the maximum sentence for the current charges that the police officers were facing, which was physical torture and unlawful arrest.”

She said Said’s family had 60 days to appeal the verdict.

‘The verdict will be on the street’

In the courtroom, families of the two policemen shouted angrily at the judge over the guilty verdict, while activists and Said’s family complained the two police had gotten off lightly.

“Inside the court, the military police locked the doors of the court and the families of the two defendants literally beat up four lawyers in protest. Justice has not been done to Khaled Said and we will not budge,” Said’s uncle Ali Qassem told Reuters.

“The response to the verdict will be on the street and not inside the court,” he added.

Activists also criticised the verdict.

“This verdict allows for this sort of thing to happen again because it is not a deterrent, and it is not acceptable to us and to the entire Egyptian society,” Mahmoud Afifi, a spokesman for the April 6 Youth movement which helped lead the uprising, said.

US-based Human Rights Watch said there was evidence that two plainclothes policemen killed Said and the state had failed to explain signs of beatings on his body. Before he died, Said posted an internet video purportedly showing two policemen sharing the spoils of a drug bust.

A Facebook site was set up named “We are all Khaled Said”. It led calls for demonstrations on January 25 and had organised silent protests demanding an end to police corruption and brutality in the months before.

Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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