Foreign Policy: ‘Mubarak Is Free and the Country Is on Fire’

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Did Egypt’s revolution just die?

CAIRO — Heshan Amin, a 24-year-old student, sits with his head in the hands, just a few hundred feet from Tahrir Square, where he and his friends fought the police during the Jan. 25, 2011 revolution. He had broken the government-imposed curfew to come here when news reached him that Egypt’s toppled leader Hosni Mubarak would be released from prison.

“I feel like I stabbed myself in the back, I didn’t know going to the streets to protest would give me such false hope,” Amin says bitterly. “I have been protesting for change for two years and look where we are. Mubarak is walking and the country is on fire.”

Egypt’s prosecutor general announced Wednesday night that the release of Egypt’s longtime autocrat is final. However, state media reported that the country’s prime minister quickly ordered that Mubarak would be placed under house arrest — part of the “emergency measures” instituted in the country after the military ousted President Mohamed Morsy last month.

Mubarak’s release from prison is ill-timed: Violent battles between security forces and Morsy’s supporters have rocked the nation in the past week, leaving hundreds dead. But however politically charged Mubarak’s release may be, there is a solid legal justification behind the decision.

More than two years after Mubarak fell from power, he still has not been found guilty of a crime. In June 2012, a court did find him guilty being involved in the killing of protesters — but that verdict was overturned when the court of appeal found procedural errors in the case.

As the aged autocrat awaits a retrial in that case, he ran out the clock on the maximum time in pre-trial detention allowed under Egyptian law, explains Hoda Nasrallah, a lawyer for the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR).

“Two years is the maximum period allowed for defendants accused of committing a crime that carries the death penalty, in his case the killing of demonstrators,” says Nasrallah, who has represented protesters killed during the January uprising.

Since April 15, Mubarak had been detained based on other cases against him, such as profiting from export of gas to Israel, appropriating funds for the upkeep of the presidential palaces, and receiving gifts from state-owned press institutions. But at some point, Nasrallah said, those endless extensions had to come to an end.

By this week, the only pending case was the charges against him for receiving gifts from state-owned media. “His lawyers contested his detention, as he had repaid the value of the gifts [that the] state-owned news outlet Al-Ahram had given him,” Nasrallah says.

Mubarak could still be re-imprisoned as the cases against him proceed. But whether or not that happens, his trial has still been a signature disappointment for those who hoped that the 2011 revolution would usher in a country governed by the rule of law.

“It has been a sham trial since day one, there has been a lack of political will and a commitment to justice,” says Karim Ennarah, a member of the criminal justice team at EIPR, who has closely observed the case. “Thousands of testimonies were dismissed from the 18 days. We also have structural problems with the judiciary.”

One of the issues, Ennarah continues, has been the judiciary’s lack of faith in technology. Videos, Ennarah explains, are not trusted as reliable evidence by the judges, who fear they could be doctored. “They still get government experts to comment on the videos, who can be biased,” he said.

Nasrallah says the case was quickly taken to court “to please the people in the streets” without collecting enough evidence, a move which hampered the trial from the beginning. Nor is it easy to prove that Mubarak was directly involved in the police crackdown during the uprising — his defense team, after all, insists that he was unaware of most of the actions his own security forces were taking.

“They can prove that he didn’t know about the security forces’ plan from the beginning,” Nasrallah says.

The largest problem has been that the same police force tasked with collecting evidence in the trial was the body largely responsible for the killings. This conflict of interest, Nasrallah said, meant that the police hampered the investigation at every turn. “[T]he prosecution had to do the investigating, which is not their job,” she says. “They are not trained nor have the political will to do it.”

Other state agencies have been just as obstructionist as the police. Egypt’s General Intelligence Service sent the prosecutor general tapes that did not have any evidence on them, claiming the relevant recordings had been “taped over.”

Nasrallah relates another disaster: A senior police officer said he “accidentally” wiped a crucial CD containing calls from the operations room of the Central Security Forces. Without such information, it is impossible to prove that the police crackdown on the street during the 18 days of revolution in 2011 was ordered by the top political officials of the Mubarak era

Even if he walks, Mubarak is due back in court on Aug. 25 for another hearing of his retrial. The timing provides an insight into the tumultuous period through which Egypt is currently passing: On the same day, six top Muslim Brotherhood leaders will also be in the dock – placed there on charges arising out of their opposition to the new government.

This has led many to fear the legal system is once again helping out the old regime. For the protesters who have been fighting for a new Egypt, it is hard news to swallow.

“Mubarak will be acquitted, it’s clear. If that happens, I give up,” says Amin. “To be honest, I don’t think protesting brings anything anymore. In the end, it’s just people sitting in the street.”

Al Jazeera: Nowhere to hide, Egypt’s vulnerable eyewitnesses

Click for original articleCairo, Egypt – Ahmed el-Said Salem, 19, said he witnessed his friend being killed by police at a downtown Cairo protest during the downfall of former president Hosni Mubarak.

Salem was later beaten and hospitalised by security forces in March, his family says, apparently to keep him from testifying about it.Yet under Egypt’s new draft of the Witness Protection Act, the same police force accused of abusing him would be put in charge of his safety.

The draft law, discussed by Egypt’s beleaguered Shura Council last week, was slammed in a recent report released by three Egyptian human rights organisations. They said they fear increased intimidation for witnesses to police crime, which is reportedly on the rise since 2011.

However, rights groups had little opportunity to present their concerns to lawmakers. Egypt’s legislature said it would host an open consultation with NGOs and the media, but discussions were held in private.

Follow spotlight coverage of the struggling young democracy

Salem, meanwhile, has been locked up in a mental institution, his family says.

“The police report says Ahmed is mentally ill and was carrying documents outlining an Israeli plot when he was arrested,” said Nadia Loutfi Mahmoud, his sister-in-law.

She has a letter from his school stating he was a happy, psychologically sound student. Mahmoud alleged Salem was drugged while in detention at Cairo’s notorious Gabal Ahmar police camp, before being sent to a psychiatric hospital in Abbasiya.

“We wrote to the Ministry of Health asking for an immediate psychological re-assessment, but they replied saying, according to the law, his case will be reviewed in six months. So he’s stuck.”

Salem’s determination to testify and the implications of the new draft law will mean he will remain trapped indefinitely in the archaic Egyptian mental health system, his mother Wafaat Mohamed Mostafa said.

Vague regulations

Osama Diab from the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) co-authored the recent report condemning the draft law.

“Our main concern with the current Witness Protection Act is that it doesn’t encourage witnesses to testify, at a time when discussions about implementing a transitional justice process and truth commissions – which is highly reliant on testimonies – is mounting,” said Diab.

The authors say the language of the legislation, which is just 10 articles long, is dangerously vague.

Unlike the United Nations model law, the document fails to properly outline what a witness is, or what should be the composition or activities of the police-run “protection unit”.

In addition, under Egyptian law refusing to testify is illegal. However, according to Article Nine of the new constitution, witnesses “found to have lied” will receive an “aggravated prison sentence”. This, Diab says, puts witnesses in an impossible position: forcing them to testify even if they fear the consequences of their testimony.

Meanwhile, those who disclose a witness’identity are “subject to imprisonment for at least a year” and a fine, which could end up being a lighter punishment than “lying” witnesses, Diab adds.

It will also only protect blood relatives of the witnesses – unlike similar legislation used in other countries, which covers anyone affected by the testimony.

The law puts witnesses and their families under the care of the security forces at a time of little police accountability and security sector reform. In the two years since the January 25 revolution toppled Murbarak’s regime, only three police officers have been jailed for wounding or killing citizens.

The combination of reported police crimes going unpunished and President Mohamed Morsi publicly praising the security forces, effectively gives officers the green light to abuse witnesses, rights groups say.

Widespread intimidation

Witnesses to police crimes are typically bribed, beaten, threatened with jail or even kidnapped, EIPR lawyer Reda Marey told Al Jazeera. Even though the state should legally pursue all murder investigations, once families or friends drop the complaints case against police are often shelved.

Cases of intimidation are widespread across Egypt, Marey said, citing examples in the Damahour, Giza and Daqahila governorates.

Mohamed Marzouq, a worker from Cairo’s lower-class district of Marg, was reportedly taken from his home by police shortly after the 18-day uprising against Mubarak’s rule began, detained in a flat, and allegedly tortured after he filed a case against his local police station for injuries sustained on January 28, 2011.

  Ola Mohamed Ibrahim’s brother died in police custody [Bel Trew/Al Jazeera]

Terrified, Marey said, Marzouq dropped the charges. When civil society groups encouraged him to file a lawsuit claiming he retracted his statement under duress, he said he was badly beaten with a gun by the same policeman.

Last year, one of the more shocking examples of police interference took place in the impoverished Nile Delta town of Mit Ghamr.

On September 16, 2012, Atef Bahbah was reportedly tortured to death in a police station as he attempted to help an assaulted woman file a report, following a violent security raid in the area.

When angry locals assembled outside the police station, security forces opened fire with automatic rifles, reportedly killing another resident, Said Asaalia.

Local lawyer Ayman Sakr, who has worked on the Mit Ghamr case, told Al Jazeera how he was pressured to step down. “The very day I went on [Egyptian channel] ONTV to talk about the two murders, the police accused my brother Youssef of being a thug; blocking roads and stopping trains.”

Among the eight other residents slapped with similar charges, two were Asaali’s relatives: a warning shot to the community, residents say.

Bahbah’s own wife Ateyad was offered 200,000 Egyptian Pounds ($28,500) to retract her testimony incriminating the police, Sakr added. She said she was told the authorities would jail her brother if she did not back off.

“She subsequently re-wrote her testimony a month later, which now reads that her husband died after falling heavily on his head.”

To date, none of the police officers are known to have been called in for questioning, and no forensic reports have been released. The policeman identified by residents as shooting Said was transferred to a different police station.

Better than nothing

The government maintains it is working on security sector reform and laws such as the Witness Protection Act are a step in the right direction.

“I can’t stress how important this legislation is,” said Taher Abdel-Mohsem Ahmed, a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and a Shura Council MP, who is working on the law.

Abdel-Mohsem Ahmed said the FJP had been pushing for the act before the Ministry of Justice drafted the document. He also maintained the problem was not with the police per se but with remnants of the former regime inside the Interior Ministry.

“The ministry will create a separate unit of specially chosen members of the security forces. If you look at the situation that we are in, there is no other solution than that the police protect us.”

The president, the government and the FJP, Abdel-Mohsem Ahmed added, were committed to security sector reform – but change will take time, and so people “must be patient”.

The Ministry of Interior declined to comment about the criticisms levelled at the ministry and the draft legislation.

But there is little to reassure those desperate to receive justice for their loved ones.

“I still don’t understand how you get to be the judge and the executer?” Bahbah’s sister, Ola Mohamed Ibrahim, asked from her small home in Mit Ghamr. “I don’t care what laws they author, I lost my brother, and I just want someone to be held to account.”

Karim Ennarah, an EIPR researcher who worked on Bahbah’s case, said the only way to protect witnesses was for civil society to make their stories public, while putting pressure on the state.

“This shaky transitional period – marked by inability to implement anything – will continue, as long as there is no real commitment from the ruling elite to ensure police accountability,” Ennarah said.

“Any attempt to pretend that Egypt’s institutions are functioning normally and are capable of enforcing laws like these, will be met with a different reality.”

Follow Bel Trew on Twitter: @Beltrew

Port Said: Egypt’s city of the dead


Families of the condemned and those acquitted speak out after Port Said football massacre ruling sentences 21 to death and five to life in prison

“My brother wasn’t even at the game; he was watching the match from a nearby coffee house. His friends confirmed this but their testimonies were ignored,” claims Intesar, sister of 20-year-old student Fouad Ahmed El-Saby, one of 21 people from Port Said sentenced to death in the recent football killings trial. “There is no evidence linking my brother to the stadium.”

After Saturday’s verdict confirming the 21 executions and sentencing a further five people to life imprisonment for the killing of over 70 Cairo-based Ahly football fans in February 2012, Port Said, its residents say, is a city of mourning, a city condemned.

The air still stings from teargas absorbed into the rubble surrounding the gutted Security Directorate, the focal point of a bloody five-day battle between protesters and police ahead of the final verdict.

Police were ordered to withdraw from the city ahead of Saturday’s ruling in a bid to prevent further unrest, leaving the army to stand guard at the police headquarters. The city is full of tanks.

Mother of death sentence
Families of the condemned gather at Port Said’s Cheef cafe after Saturday’s verdict sentencing 21 to death (Photo: Bel Trew)
Relatives of the condemned, like Intesar, gather at Cheef café, an activist hangout.

They claim their loved ones are innocent, framed by flimsy or false evidence, as the government, not wanting to punish security officials, bows to pressure from the Cairo’s football fans (particularly the hardcore Ahly supporters, the Ultras Ahlawy) to find someone responsible.

The hum of the popular café is punctuated by angry shouts and sobs. It feels like a funeral as people try to console each other.

“My husband’s lawyers told him the best option was to turn himself in, as there was no evidence against him, so he did,” explains 25-year-old newly-wed Wafaa Mohamed, her veiled face in her hands.

Wafaa’s husband, Mohamed Mahmoud El-Boghadady, 26, a local tuk-tuk (rickshaw) driver, was caught on camera running across the pitch in an undershirt.

“The attorney-general let Mohamed go but he was summoned again when his name was mentioned by [TV sports presenters] Medhat Shalby and Ahmed Shobier; now he will be executed.”

Wafaa, wife of condemned man“I’m dying; even if his sentenced is reduced, he will get life,” Wafaa, wife of man condemned to death (Photo: Bel Trew)

“We only received this verdict because we are from Port Said,” adds Amr Nasr El-din, whose 18-year-old son, a military student, received a 10-year prison sentence.

Nasr El-din claims the witness who testified against his son never appeared in court and failed to recognise him when questioned during preliminary investigations.

They all claim there is a Cairo Ahly fan amongst the 21 sentenced to death, and that one of men facing execution left the match at half time to go to a wedding, which can be proved by the wedding video.

Port SaidMother of Ahmed, 15, weeps after he was sentenced to 5 years in jail (Photo: Bel Trew)

None of the stories professing innocence can be legally verified, however.

Lawyers close to the trial say the court has withheld the evidence and details of each case. Until the information is released, they say, it is impossible to comment on the record about the individuals involved. This indicates a lack of transparency surrounding the trial.

Even the much-hated Port Said police force admits there were problems with the investigation.

In an unusually frank interview at Port Said’s El-Sharq police station, where officers were holed up after being ordered off the streets and staging a strike, some policemen say they are against the verdict.

“It was chaos after the massacre. We didn’t know who to arrest, so we detained anyone at the stadium who had a criminal record and people we thought might be behind it,” says police officer Rahib Mohamed Atef. “We arrested hundreds, so there could be people on trial who are innocent.”

His commanding officer, the station’s deputy chief Mohamed El-Kady, says the subsequent orders by the Ministry of Interior to move the prisoners to different prisons are “evidence that the system is wrong.”

The striking policemen huddle around a TV set, cuddling their guns and protesting their innocence in relation to the massacre.

Acquitted prayThe exonerated pray at graves of protesters killed during recent clashes with police (Photo: Diaa Adel)

 Many of the acquitted, who were released from prison following the verdict, say they found out they had been charged from TV reports or when security forces turned up on their door steps and ransacked their homes.

In addition, some of those sentenced still have not been rounded up by the police.

Mahmoud*, one of the 21 facing the gallows, is currently a fugitive.

“I was sentenced to death in absentia; no one came to take me away and I knew if I entered the police station I would never come out again. If I had really had appeared in incriminating footage from the match they would have no problem recognising me and finding me,” Mahmoud says, adding that he has not been hiding – he continues his daily life, despite facing execution.

“I’m waiting for my lawyer to figure things out before I turn myself in. I’ve had the opportunity more than once to escape the country but chose to stay as fleeing would make me appear guilty.”

Mahmoud claims he was charged because he refused to disclose to the police the names of key members of Port Said’s Ultras, the Green Eagles.

Again with no access to the trial files, it is impossible to verify his story.

However, the very fact a man, who is supposedly a convicted murderer on death row, is conducting interviews in popular café a few minutes walk from the main police headquarters raises concerns about the way the authorities are handling the trial.

Mohamed El-Dosouky
“Port Said is the government’s scapegoat” Mohamed El-Desouky, with his 15-year-old son, after being acquitted (Photo: Diaa Adel)

 “We were never told anything by the police. Mohamed, my husband, was never arrested. I found out he was among the defendants from a TV channel. We called the channel afterwards and he ended up in court,” says Safaa Osman, 39, wife of Mohamed El-Desouky who helped manage security at the Port Said stadium and is one of the 28 exonerated on Saturday.

She hands around chocolates in her tiny dilapidated flat, where some of the acquitted are meeting before they go to the main Port Said cemetery to pray at the graves of protesters who died in recent clashes with security forces.

“It was such a mess, the judge actually asked Mohamed in the court room, are you a witness or a killer? Next thing I know he’s in prison for 13 months and I’m alone.”

Mohamed maintains that after the match, which he attended with his 16-year-old son, he went to the police station “to be an eye-witness to the atrocity.”

His wife tried to stop him. At some point during the confusion he ended up being listed as one of the defendants.

At the gravesides of slain protesters, the exonerated men highlight further issues with the way the authorities handled the case.

“They stripped us naked, beat us brutally and tortured us. I was afraid they would actually kill me,” says salesman Mohamed Nasr Malazy, 29, explaining he was eventually released from Tora prison in Cairo when the prosecution failed to find any proof of the charges against him.

“They even tortured a guy who was already injured and stopped giving us food and water,” adds Khaled Hussein Ahmed Sedik, a 33-year-old electrician, who explains how the witness who testified against him kept changing his story, which led to his release.

Khaled Sedik acquitted“They treated us appallingly in prison” Khaled Sedik, 33, acquitted Saturday (Photo: Bel Trew)

 Back at Cheef café, the human cost of the life sentences and death penalties for the relatives are clear.

“My life is ruined. My two-year-old daughter, as young as she is, keeps saying please God, save Daddy. She doesn’t understand,” says Wafaa.

One of her friends quietly points out that whether Wafaa’s husband is guilty or not, there is little hope of a positive future for the penniless widow of an executed convict in a conservative neighbourhood.

In another corner, Hosny Abdel-Moneim El-Khayat, who is partially blind, holds a picture of his 18-year-old son, Mohamed, who received a life sentence. Hosny, like the others, demands to see the evidence against his child.

“Mohamed’s mother is dying. If my mind wasn’t shielded by my religion, I would have attempted suicide already. They were taking people randomly. My son was arrested outside a shop. Twenty-five years in jail, even if he did commit the murder, is too much for a child.”

A woman behind Hosny interjects to say her son is even younger. Ahmed, she explains, is just 15 years old and was sentenced to five years in prison.

Nasr El-din, meanwhile, joins in, saying he fears a decade in Egypt’s notorious prison system will turn his son into a “thug.”

“He will never be the same person again, he has already lost his innocence, he says he doesn’t have a problem sleeping naked on the ground and peeing in front of his friends.”

Fouad condemned to deathFouad, 21, defendant sentenced to death, although his sister claims he was not at the match (Photo: Bel Trew)

There are a number of theories amongst the acquitted and the relatives of those charged concerning what happened on the night of the massacre.

The majority believe the violence was deliberately instigated by the police who they say failed to secure the Ahly stands as they normally do, ordered the lights be switched off and sealed the exits.

Some point to the then-ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and its head, Field Marshall Tantawi. They say the massacre was a government-initiated attack against the highly-politicised Ultras Ahlawy, which, as Mahmoud points out, has a large, countrywide membership.

However, none of them believe Port Said residents were involved: a fact that those close to the case say cannot be true.

Many people in Port Said claim no weapons were used in the killing of the Ahly fans, instead they say the 74 perished in the ensuing stampedes. This view has been refuted by official forensic reports and Ultras Ahlawy eyewitness accounts, which document the presence of knives, sticks and machetes and people being thrown from the top of the stadium.

The only point that the football fans from Port Said and Cairo seem to largely agree on is that the military council, the authorities and the police are somehow involved, and that this is proved by the fact that only two of the nine security officials on trial were found guilty.

The 15-year jail sentence for former Port Said security chief Essam Samak, both Port Said and Cairo football fans say, is not long enough.

Nevertheless the two cities are becoming increasingly polarised. Ultras Ahlawy reportedly set fire to the Egyptian Football Association HQ and the capital’s Police Club, because the verdicts were not harsh enough.

Desperate to secure justice for their slain friends, Ultras Ahlawy celebrated when the death sentences were confirmed.

Dialogue between the two sides seems impossible.

If the 21 being hanged are included, the death toll in Port Said since the verdict was first announced matches the number of Cairo football fans who died in the initial tragedy.

With protests and subsequent clashes on the horizon in both grieving cities, further deaths are expected.

Due to the chaotic nature of the trial, many fear the truth may never be uncovered and, for both sides, justice will not be served.

‘They beat us like animals’: Egypt’s children detained, tortured

AhramRights groups report on the rise of Egyptian police brutality against children after 13 minors were arrested in Cairo on Tuesday; Ahram Online speaks with the victims

In an impoverished district of Alexandria, Sherifa Abdel-Meneem described finding bruises and gashes all over her 13-year-old son’s body, Abdel-Rahman, who was picked up by Egyptian security forces at a protest on 27 January and detained for over two weeks.”He won’t tell me where the marks come from or what the security forces did to him, he’s too scared… when he went missing no words can describe how I felt, I wasn’t sure I’d see my son ever again,” said Abdel-Meneem.

The latest spat of arrests during a political context occurred on Tuesday, when the Egyptian Coalition for Children’s Rights reported a further 13 children were taken during a police raid on Cairo’s Tahrir Square. One of boys picked up by the police, Walid Ahmed Abdel Sayed, was12 years old.

Since the start of 2013, rights groups have been reporting an increase in police brutality towards children.

“It is definitely a way of frightening people…the number of children taken by security forces and the manner in which they are detained is unprecedented in my experience,” says Ghada Shahbender of the Egyptian Organisation of Human Rights.

She explains that roughly around a third of the recent political prisoners are underage, normally from an impoverished background.

This is certainly true of Abdel-Rahman who is the breadwinner of his family, despite being 13 years old. He, his mother and his five siblings squeeze into a flat no larger than an average-sized living room in Alexandria. According to Abdel-Meneem, his two week disappearance had financial consequences as well as emotional ones.

Abdel-Rahman was detained with 14-year-old bone cancer patient Mahmoud Adel whose story hit international headlines after the judge initially refused to allow him chemotherapy.

Both boys, who say they were bystanders to the Alexandrian demonstration, were only released after significant pressure from rights groups like the Egyptian Organisation of Human Rights.

Police brutality against children

For Abdel-Meneem, not knowing the location of her son, Abdel-Rahman, was one of the most traumatising aspects of her son’s disappearance. Typically, no effort is made by Egyptian security forces to contact the children’s parents when the arrest occurs.

She spoke of trawling police stations for days and eventually attempting to take food to her son at the Alexandrian Security Directorate, where she was initially refused entry.

The children themselves are threatened with violence if they try to make contact with anyone.

Abdel-Rahman, who appears visibly distressed and had to be coaxed by his family members to relate his story, recalled hearing friends shouting his name as they ran behind the Central Security Forces (CSF) truck that transported the boy and other inmates to an unknown location.

“The officer said if we try to call out to our friends and family they would beat us… so we stayed quiet.”

There was a seven-year-old boy in one of the cells where he was kept together with adults, Abdel-Rahman added. “The boy’s parents didn’t know that he was missing.”

There are dozens of children left in prison because the parents do not have relations with resources to find their missing sons and daughters, the boy asserted, while tentatively pointing to the places on his body where he was beaten by security forces.

Abdel-Rahman claimed he was not subjected to the electrocutions and sexual assault that rights groups and victims say inmates, including children, are often subjected to.

Violation of Child’s Law

The presence of children in protests and clashes and their consequent detention, although getting worse, is nothing new, explained Karim Ennarah from the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. However, “since 25 January this year… the involvement of the prosecution in this abuse is a new trend.”

The role of the prosecutor appears to be much more politicised when dealing with detentions, and rights groups are noticing that they are broadly renewing detentions in violation of Egyptian legislation, said Ennarah.

“Typically the prosecutors used to stick to procedures in Egypt’s Child Law. There is special treatment for children under the age of 12 and15. For example, those under 12 years of age do not have criminal liability, and the detention of those under 15 cannot be renewed for more than a week,” he added.

“This has changed.”

Shahbender agreed, adding that both adults and children are now held even when there is no police report, which is considered illegal under Egyptian law.

According to the law, children are supposed to be kept in centres “fit for the detention of a child,” which is not happening, Shahbender described. “Egyptian juvenile detention centres are appalling…and are run like prisons.”

Systemic violence

The children recounted stories of brutal beatings.

“We got arrested because we couldn’t fight back or run away fast enough,” said 15-year-old Mahmoud El-Sayed Ragab, who was taken from the central Alexandrian square with Abdel-Rahman on 27 January.

“The police beat us and hurled insults at us like we were animals; they took us to the security directorate where men in black clothes hit me so hard I couldn’t breathe. I felt like I was dead,” said Ragab.

12-year-old Ziyad Taysir Mohamed Ahmed described being kidnapped on Cairo’s Qasr Al-Nil Bridge by CSF in early February and accused of vandalising the nearby Shepherd Hotel off Tahrir Square.

“They dragged me by my hair and then held me up by my neck, while punching me on the head. The police kept asking me who paid me to attack the hotel and telling me they were going to take me to different police stations and let me go, but I ended up in Torah Prison.”

Ziyad was detained for 24 hours, which his father engineer Taysir Mohamed Ahmed said was a “lucky escape” because of his ‘connections’ to secure his son’s release. “Others were not so lucky,” he lamented.

The Ministry of Interior has yet to directly tackle the issue of child abuse by the Egyptian police in a public statement. Ahram Online attempted to speak with a ministry official, but the ministry was unavailable to comment.

However, Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim stated on 19 February that no violence is used by the police force against peaceful protesters.

“The authorities have discovered if they really want to break us, they have to use the most important people to us – our children,” concluded Taysir Mohamed Ahmed. “This is why they are arresting and torturing children.  Our children are our weak point. They are our future.”

Additional reporting by Diaa Adel

Police brutality in Egypt on rise

Click for Video: President Mohamed Morsi struggles to calm street violence engulfing Egypt. But as his supporters and opponents clash, rights groups report a rise in police abuse resulting in the abuse of minors.
Click for Video: President Mohamed Morsi struggles to calm street violence engulfing Egypt. But as his supporters and opponents clash, rights groups report a rise in police abuse resulting in the abuse of minors.