A Year Since Khaled Said’s Death, Egypt Still Waits for Justice

By Nicholas Piachaud, North Africa Team

Outrage at Khaled Said's death paved the way for Egypt's '25 January revolution' ©Sarah Carr

I can still remember the shock when I first saw the pictures. The young man’s face was barely recognizable from his beating at the hands of the security forces, and from an autopsy that, we would later learn from forensic experts, had been rushed and botched.

I cannot imagine what Khaled Mohammed Said’s family must have felt when they saw the body.

I know that, today, one year after his death, they are still waiting for justice.

On June 6, 2010, Khaled Said, 28, was beaten by two plain-clothes police officers in an internet café in Egypt’s second city, Alexandria. He was then dragged out into the street where, eyewitnesses say, the beating continued until he died.

Pictures of his body, taken by his family in a morgue, caused public outrage that paved the way for the January 2011 uprising.


Protests and Police Intimidation at Khaled Said Killing Trial

By Sally Sami, Regional Campaign Coordinator for Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme

The second session of the trial of two policemen accused of beating Khaled Said to death started in Alexandria on Saturday, marred by the heavy presence of security forces.

The court was surrounded by uniformed anti-riot officers and cordoned off with metal railings. Both entrances were guarded by plain-clothed police officers who only let lawyers into the building.

The court was surrounded by uniformed anti-riot officers © Amnesty International

I arrived at the court just after 9am. Pushing my way through the crowd, I was stopped by a plain-clothed police officer who asked me for my Bar Association membership card.

I said I was not a lawyer and introduced myself as a representative of Amnesty International who wanted to observe the trial. The police officer refused my entry, insisting that I needed permission from the Head of the Court.

I tried to explain that the lawyers were waiting for me inside and that I had a letter from Amnesty International to present to the court. Again he refused me entry. I asked if I could meet the Head of the Court and get permission but he said no.

I was pushed back and plain-clothed police officers started aggressively pushing the crowd, nearly causing a stampede. I tried to negotiate my entry with the police officer again, telling him that in no country where the rule of law prevails would police have such control over enters the court. After all, aren’t trials supposed to be public, unless decided by a judge? If the authorities have nothing to conceal, why aren’t we allowed in to observe the trial? He said: “This is the way it is and if you don’t like it then leave the country”.

Behind the security forces on the steps outside the court, around 150 supporters of the police officers brandished wooden sticks and chanted insults about Khaled Said and his family, which were also directed at the 100 or so anti-torture protesters on the pavement.

Witnesses have reported that Khaled Said was beaten to death while in the hands of Egyptian security forces, in the city of Alexandria on Sunday 6 June.

Shocking pictures of Khaled Said’s body, whose face was almost unrecognizable in the morgue, were posted on the internet shortly after his death.


Egyptians Act to Stop Torture, Find Justice for Khaled Said

[Update: The trial has been postponed once again to Oct. 23.]

After a two-month postponement, an important trial in Egypt is scheduled to go back into session, and Amnesty International will watch it closely to see  whether the judicial system there is ready to keep its police and security officials accountable for their actions.

The trial of two police officers accused of beating to death of a man outside an Alexandria internet café in June was discussed in an earlier blog posting here.

The officers are not accused of murder but with lesser charges. Amnesty has called upon Egyptian officials place measures to protect witnesses in the case.  But in similar situations in the past, no charges would have been filed at all. We believe the fact that the trial is being held at all is because of the great groundswell of public interest in the case.

Throughout Egypt, particularly in Alexandra and Cairo, large demonstrations have pressed authorities to pursue this case.  A new Amnesty video released this week before the trial explores why people believe this case is so important.

American officials are also watching.  Torture and death in custody has always been a significant part of the annual State Department Human Rights report on Egypt, and the last congressional delegation to meet with government officials raised the issue.  But frankly, it’s not the U.S. that is making the difference this time.

The video tells the story of why Egyptian people are demanding that the judicial authorities fulfill their obligations for justice and why Khaled Said will not be forgotten. They’ve made their leaders listen. Our support for them will show we are listening as well.