A demonstration was held Monday afternoon in Downtown Cairo in memoriam of Essam Atta, a driver who died in custody at the age of 23.
Atta was arrested in Moqattam Heights in February 2011 for involvement in a brawl and sentenced to prison by a military tribunal. The Nation Without Torture campaign, which was launched by the Hisham Mubarak Law Centre to address human rights violations, said Atta was “martyred” on 27 October after facing torture that involved forcing a “water hose into his mouth and anus.”
Security officials, however, have a different account of events. They claim that immediately after a visit by his mother, Atta began feeling ill and started to vomit before he was taken to Qasr Al-Eini Hospital where he died. A report issued by the prison’s administration said a prisoner testified that Atta had swallowed a drug.
The Arab Penal Reform Organisation (APRO), which was given Atta’s power of attorney by his brother, is calling on Prosecutor General Hesham Barakat to open up investigations into Atta’s case. APRO head Mohamed Zare’ said previous investigations were suspended last June by the general prosecution, after the medical examiner’s report concluded that Atta’s death was caused by the presence of a “drug in his intestines”.
A statement by APRO says “there are witnesses who confirm he was brutally tortured on two consecutive days, 25 and 26 October.” Zare’ said that while he is not challenging the medical examiner’s report, an investigation into the torture itself must be conducted even if the cause of death was drugs, as claimed.
The suspended investigations were in fact the second round of investigations started in September 2012 after new evidence in the case was found when a new witness came forward with his testimony. Initial investigations had been suspended for lack of evidence.
The demonstration, which comes a day after the second anniversary of Atta’s death, was organised by Nation Without Torture Campaign, the No to Military Trials of Civilians Campaign, as well as the Hisham Mubarak Law Centre.
The day was dubbed “Torture-Victim Day” and, in addition to commemorating Atta, was organised to recognise all “torture victims regardless of their political or religious affiliations.” Nation Without Torture Campaign had also commemorated the first anniversary of Atta’s death on Al-Mansur Street last year.