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Fears for Egypt 'torture' victim

By Heba Saleh
BBC News, Cairo

Still image from Egypt 'torture' video
The graphic footage became public in November last year

Human rights campaigners say they fear for the safety of an Egyptian man who has been sent to jail, after video apparently showing him being tortured by police officers was posted on the internet.

Chilling footage of the torture of Emad al-Kebir, filmed using a mobile phone camera, appeared on the internet in November.

It showed the 21-year-old minibus driver apparently being sexually assaulted.

He has since been sentenced to three months in jail for resisting the authorities.

Torture is endemic in Egyptian detention facilities. The most common torture methods include electrocution and beating.
Elijah Zarwan, Human Rights Watch

The Human Rights Watch campaign group says it is very concerned for his safety.

The video footage shocked Egyptians and prompted a local weekly newspaper, al-Fajr, to launch a search for him.

They succeeded in finding him in December and lawyers helped him press charges against the two policemen he accused of raping him.

Officers charged

The two men have been arrested and are to appear in court in March charged with three counts, including sexual assault.

Speaking from behind bars in the courtroom last week Mr Kebir said he was not afraid to describe what happened to him.

It has been shown that the officer made a mistake and we immediately took all the necessary measures against him... But these are individual cases [of torture] which don't amount to a worrying phenomenon
General Ahmed Diaa
Interior ministry official
"At 0300 am a policeman took me into a security room," he said.

"There were at least two other policemen there. They whipped me, they took off my trousers and my underwear and they kept trying to rape me with a stick.

"They kept on beating me savagely. When I asked them why they were doing it they said it was to send a message to other people like me not to ask questions of the police."

Local and international human rights groups say that torture is used systematically in Egypt - an allegation which the authorities here deny.

"Torture is endemic in Egyptian detention facilities," says Elijah Zarwan of Human Rights Watch. "The most common torture methods include electrocution and beating."

His organisation has issued a statement voicing its fears for Mr Kebir's safety now that he has been jailed.

"We're concerned that he will be very vulnerable to torture and intimidation in prison. He's been tortured before and we're very concerned, given the fact that he's spoken out, that he may face harm or intimidation in prison."

Bloggers

The story of Emad al-Kebir was first broken by Egyptian bloggers who posted the video of his torture on the internet.

I received this video of a woman being tortured apparently because she is a murder suspect, and she's confessing under torture that she's the one who did the murder
Wael Abbas
Blogger
Blogger Wael Abbas features on his site, the Egyptian Awareness, other footage of beatings and torture alleged to have been filmed in police stations.

One shows a women trussed up and hanging on a stick placed across two chairs. She is pleading for mercy, saying that her hands were about to fall off.

"I received this video of a woman being tortured apparently because she is a murder suspect, and she's confessing under torture that she's the one who did the murder," said Mr Abbas.

"The officer who is investigating her seems to be taking pleasure in what he's doing to her and he is making some sexual comments about it."

The interior ministry has reportedly ordered an investigation to identify the woman.

Lawyers say torture is endemic in Egypt because suspects are held incommunicado for long periods of time and police interrogations take place without counsel.

But the authorities point to the arrest of Mr Kebir's alleged torturers as proof that they do not tolerate abuse.

'Mistake'

"In the case of Emad el-Kebir, it has been shown that the officer made a mistake and we immediately took all the necessary measures against him," said General Ahmed Diaa, the assistant to the Egyptian interior minister for legal affairs.

"This was an error by one individual and he bears the responsibility. Members of all professions make mistakes whether doctors, for instance, or engineers. But these are individual cases [of torture] which don't amount to a worrying phenomenon."

On the same day that Mr Kebir was sentenced to prison a judge denied a request for bail from the officers accused of torturing him.

Human rights activists are now awaiting the outcome of their trial to see if the wall of impunity which they say surrounds police abuse has finally cracked.

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