The General Prosecution announced Friday that lawyer Kareem Hamdy physically collapsed after a session of interrogation in the Matariya Police Station, with fellow detainees citing they were tortured.
Hamdy was arrested on 22 February, allegedly on charges of belonging to an outlawed group and possession of weapons, and reportedly died two days later.
The prosecution’s report said the interrogation session in the police station by two officers happened after the defendants were interrogated by the prosecution.
The officers, a lieutenant colonel and a major, are to stand trial at the Criminal Court on 26 June, where they will face charges of “beating until death”.
The report based its findings on the testimonies of Hamdy’s fellow detainees and the Forensics report. It quoted the police station’s commanding officer as saying that he saw Hamdy in “good health when was interrogated”.
This narrative was repeated by all officers in the report. The accused officers also denied torturing Hamdy, adding that he confessed being a part of a “terrorist cell which is targeting the police and the army before being interrogated”.
One of the suspects who were arrested alongside Hamdy said he heard him screaming to inform the officer that he will confess to the alleged crimes, asserting that he was also beaten by the officers.
The victim was blindfolded during the interrogation, the suspect added.
After interrogation, the suspect was removed from the police station to help officers detain some other suspects. When he returned, he found Hamdy lying on the floor indicating he was cold. The next morning, the witness said that the lawyer collapsed amid attempts by fellow inmates to help.
Other suspects were cited in the report saying Hamdy’s health deteriorated inside the police station, until he had no pulse.
The Forensics report said the body came from the Matariya hospital where he received defibrillation shocks, but was unresponsive. He had injuries to the neck, chest, hands, legs, and knees.
The report cited bruises and cuts on the victim’s body, adding the presence of considerable the area of the genitals.
It concluded by saying the injuries happened due to a “collision with a solid body”, which caused the heart to stop as a result of “injuries to the chest, stomach, and neck leading to fractures, lung and heart contusion, as well as bleeding in the testicles”.
One day after Hamdy’s death, Daily News Egypt contacted the Ministry of Interior regarding the incident, with a minister representative saying the reason of death was a “circulatory failure”.
“However, as the prosecution and the forensics reports assert that Hamdy was tortured to death during the interrogations, the charge might change to ‘torture to death’,” lawyer Mohamed Karm told Daily News Egypt.
Article 52 of the 2014 constitution says: “Torture in all forms and types is a crime that is not subject to a statute of limitations.”
Karm added that penalty of torture is much stricter, “however the lawyers responsible for the case have not been able to access the papers of the case”.
Karm was one of the hundreds of lawyers who staged a demonstration in front of the Prosecutor General’s office demanding to be allowed to see the case papers, as well as left the media gag on the case.
“The gag was lifted, but we haven’t had access to any evidence or testimonies,” Karm said adding that the Lawyers’ Syndicate has not been helping in the case.
Most of the Syndicate’s “brave” statements are just for show, and are not applied, he said, adding: “We are expecting more from them, if not escalation will take place.”
The lawyers had previously threatened to strike and close the court houses if the case is not taken seriously.
Karm also said: “While fellow lawyers will follow the case from a pure legal point of view, rights lawyers will prosecute the officers on charges of forcing the victim to confess a crime he didn’t commit.”
Since the beginning of the year, hundreds of suspects have been arrested, with the Ministry of Interior alleging them to be “member of terrorist group which attack police and the army forces”.
Many of those suspects are pictured on the Interior Ministry’s official page, and are charged with previous attacks and crimes.
Torture has been a controversial subject in Egypt, where the police are accused of torturing detainees and suspects. In the majority of cases, the police announce that “cause of death is failure in the blood circulation of the body”.
A medical source previously told Daily News Egypt that the authorities fail to mention the “underlying cause of death”, which can be injuries to chest, drowning, and diabetes.
Since the beginning of the year, reports of deaths in custody have been on the rise.
The Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence recently released a report on cases of torture and abuse in Egyptian prison and detention facilities during March.
From 26-29 March, the report says, five cases of deaths in police custody were observed.
At least 52 individuals have died inside detention centres across Cairo and Giza since January 2014, according to the official numbers from the Forensic Medicine Authority. A further 80 individuals have died whilst in detention across Egyptian cities between July 2013 and January 2014, according to WikiThawra, an independent observatory that documents fatalities in prisons.
Amid the increasing criticism from human rights organisations, the Ministry of Interior has announced through its human rights’ department that citizens who claim they have been abused by police personnel should report them.