By Rania Al Malky
CAIRO: Just when I thought that there’s no more to be said about the autopsy reports on now iconic torture victim Khaled Saeid, which found that he asphyxiated on a marijuana wrap, more inquiries raise new questions about how the 28-year-old Alexandrian really died.
In coordination with the Nadim Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture, which has relentlessly followed every last detail of Saeid’s case, leaving no stone unturned to challenging government claims against the “beaten-to-death” scenario, two foreign forensic doctors this week came up with a damning evaluation of the deficiencies in the local autopsy reports on the cause of death in Saeid’s case.
According to a review of their report in this newspaper, Duarte Nuno Vieira and Jorgen L. Thomsen, chief forensic pathologists at the National Institute of Forensic Medicine of Portugal and the Institute of Forensic Medicine of Odense, respectively, the autopsies performed on June 7 and 16 when the body was exhumed, were “manifestly inadequate” and failed to comply with the “minimum international standards for forensic autopsies”.
The detail that stood out the most in their questioning of the truthfulness of these reports was a detail that has not been widely discussed before, that is, the apparent absence of a picture of the (illusive) drug wrap in place in Saeid’s throat.
As soon as the case of Khaled Saeid (who died in Alexandria on June 6 after being violently assaulted by two policemen who are now on trial for a flimsy charge of “misuse of force”) unexpectedly took on the status of a public opinion issue, the interior ministry launched a counter-offensive of half-truths about Saeid.
Although no one in his family has publicly denied that he was a drug addict, that particular fact was never meant to be the core issue in the case, except that the two forensic reports effortlessly came to the conclusion that Saeid choked on the drugs, but with no shred of evidence to prove it.
With no picture of the wrap in Saeid’s throat, how is it possible for the judge to determine without a shadow of a doubt that the drug wrap of gargantuan — unrealistic dimensions — measuring 2.5 cm by 7.5 cm was ever in his throat to begin with? Even if this can be determined through a DNA test on the saliva covering the wrap, how can we be certain that asphyxiating on it was the cause of death, especially that some 22 eyewitnesses have seen the two policemen brutally beat Saeid, even knocking his head against iron railings?
The big irony is that not only did the two autopsy reports reveal the abysmal lack of efficiency and attention to detail prevalent in all Egyptian medical facilities in general, but also the ridiculous claim that the traumatic lesions seen on Saeid’s body were caused by the accidental fall of the victim from the ambulance gurney during transportation, is infuriating.
This claim is an insult to the intelligence of any 12-year-old who watches CSI. Besides, it’s it standard procedure to strap the body onto gurney, or has the lack of respect for human beings in this country reached such a level of disregard for the sanctity of the dead that no one bothers to make sure that they don’t just drop off trolleys.
We’re not in a war zone where suspected corpses are being rushed to hospital, where they may perhaps be saved. Saeid was already dead when he was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. And if we shut out all common sense and contend that his body did fall, what kind of “rush” could have possibly led to this fall, and how would it have led to the unsightly lesions we all saw in the morgue picture?
The judge on this case has a heavy burden on his shoulders and the first step to prove his complete impartiality, is to approve the motion filed by Saeid’s legal team to change the charges against the two officers from misuse of force, a crime with a maximum punishment of one year in prison, to murder under Article 126 of the Egyptian Penal Code, punishable by either the death penalty or life imprisonment.
Rania Al Malky is the Chief Editor of Daily News Egypt.