The West Cairo prosecutor’s office issued 15-day detention renewal orders on December 20 for the commissioned officer and three enlisted officers being investigated on suspicion of torturing and killing cart driver Magdy Makeen in Cairo’s Amereya Police Station last month.
Six other enlisted officers who have been implicated in the case were released on bail on the same day, pending the completion of investigations.
Captain Karim Magdy and the three other officers who remain in custody have been accused of torturing Makeen to death, inflicting severe bodily harm and actions willfully detrimental to their place of work.
According to Hany Girguis, the nephew of Makeen, his uncle and two other men, Mohsen Zaky and Mahmoud al-Araby, were running an errand for work on November 13 when their cart hit an Amereya Police Station truck. The truck chased the men’s cart and overturned it, after which 10 police officers beat the three men and dragged them through the street.
The lawyer for Makeen’s family, Ali al-Halawani, has stated that the three men were then taken to the police station where Makeen was tortured to death, while the other two men were severely beaten. When news of Makeen’s death first broke, Interior Ministry spokesperson Tarek Ateya denied that the cart driver had been tortured to death, asserting that Makeen had died as a result of extremely low blood pressure and was arrested with two other men for possession of 2,000 Tramadol pills.
The chief of Amereya Police Station – who has not been accused in the case – met with the West Cairo prosecutor on Saturday as part of the ongoing investigation into the case, denying personal responsibility for Makeen’s death and the torture of Zaky and Araby, as well as claims of misconduct leveled at his station’s officers.
The police chief is quoted in the privately owned Al-Shorouk newspaper as saying that he told the prosecutor that he was away from the station on his weekly leave when the alleged incident occurred, and that Captain Magdy had been placed in charge. He added that he was told Makeen died while en route to the hospital, a contention that supports what the Interior Ministry spokesperson claimed in November.
While Halawani found that some of the police chief’s account to be plausible, he contested the outright dismal of any wrongdoing.
“The incident took place at night, so it is possible the chief of the police station was indeed not around, as he would have gone home by the time of the incident,” Halawani told Mada Masr.
However, there have been several complaints of detainee mistreatment, abuse and torture filed against the Amereya Police Station, the lawyer added.
“The last claim of torture at this police station was filed a few months ago by Mohamed Ibrahim,” Halawani stated. Ibrahim claimed he had been blindfolded and tortured at the Amereya Police Station in September.
Journalist and editor Ahmed Abdel Gawwad filed a complaint with the Interior Ministry in November 2014, alleging he had been subjected to torture by officers at the Amereya Police Station.
Zaky and Araby have also testified that they were physically abused at station following Makeen’s death, a claim that is supported by surveillance footage the prosecution has obtained.
Hany Ramsis, another lawyer representing the cart driver’s family, has stated that the forensic report indicates Makeen died as a result of at least one person standing on his back which caused a disruption in his nervous system and blood clots to form in his lungs. The corner also found several bruises on Makeen’s corpse.
Zaky and Araby have told Makeen’s family that they were held in a separate room in the police station but could still hear the cart driver’s screams. According to the two men, when Makeen’s voice fell silent, Captain Magdy urged them to confess to possession of 2,000 Tramadol pills in exchange for their release, but they refused.
The prosecutor appealed Zaky and Araby’s release in early December, prompting a court to extend their detentions by 15 days. However, they were later released.
“There is no evidence to be presented against the two men. The claims of them having 2,000 Tramadol pills in their possession is a baseless accusation and a trumped up charge. How and why would they be carrying such a massive quantity of pills with them?” Halawani said.
While there have been numerous reported incidence of police violence and torture, the Interior Ministry has repeatedly contended that incidents of torture are rare and isolated.
According to a report published by Al-Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, 137 detainees died while in custody in 2015, while 640 were individually torture, and there were 36 cases of mass torture and 26 cases of general misconduct toward detainees. The report contends that 358 individuals suffered from medical negligence while in detention in 2015.