Over 100 lawyers staged a protest outside the headquarters of the Lawyers Syndicate in Downtown Cairo on Sunday over the torture and death of one of their colleagues at a police station.
They then marched to the adjacent office of the prosecutor general.
Participants announced they would organize a follow-up protest on March 9 in the hope of realizing justice for the deceased lawyer.
Several protesters held photos of 28-year-old lawyer Karim Hamdy, who died in North Cairo’s Matareya Police Station on Tuesday. Slogans were chanted calling for the resignation of the Interior Minister and declaring, “The Ministry of Interior are thugs.”
Protesters petitioned Prosecutor General Hesham Barakat to lift the ban he had imposed on media coverage after news of the lawyer’s death circulated on Wednesday.
“However, Barakat refused to lift the gag order which he had imposed on the media, and on the general populace,” said Lawyer Mahmoud Belal, who participated in the protest.
Belal told Mada Masr that Barakat’s office would issue regular findings and updates to the media and general public.
A number of local media outlets reported that the ban on coverage would remain in effect, at least until the prosecution’s investigations are concluded.
Some of the protesters called on Barakat to summon Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim for questioning regarding the torture and abusive conditions in police stations, particularly Matareya. This petition was also declined, according to domestic media outlets.
“Our experience with prosecutors reveals that they let the police walk free, or facilitate their acquittal in courts, clearing them of their violations,” said Belal, who added that similar media blackouts have followed the deaths of civilians in police custody, “so as to silence all human rights defenders and critics of police brutality.”
At least three civilians are reported to have died whilst in custody at Matareya Police Station in the past few weeks. Several other reports of torture and abuse have emerged from this particular station.
Belal adds, “Torture, along with other forms of physical and psychological abuse are systematic occurrences, which take place nationwide. This is not just an isolated incident of torture resulting in death at the notorious Matareya Police Station, these grave violations are perpetrated against detainees in numerous police stations.”
He claims that, due to a lack of criminal accountability, “police brutality and torture are increasing, not decreasing.”
An official autopsy revealed that Hamdy, who police had accused of being a member of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, died as a result of severe beating at the hands of police, which left his ribs broken, body bruised, and caused internal bleeding.
On Thursday, Barakat ordered the detention of two police officers pending criminal investigations into the incident.
Late last week, the Interior Ministry’s spokesperson, Hany Abdel Latif, claimed that Hamdy was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, which the Egyptian State has officially classified as a terrorist organization, and that he was also found in possession of weapons. Hamdy’s defense team has denied these allegations.
An online statement posted by the Lawyers’ Branch Syndicate in Monufiya on Sunday was issued in response to the Interior Ministry’s claims, denouncing torture and police brutality. “Nobody should be tortured or killed in a police station, regardless of whether this person is a lawyer or a proven criminal,” it read, referring specifically to Hamdy’s case.
The statement also blamed the Interior Ministry for facilitating and perpetuating violations committed by its personnel against civilians in detention.