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.
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