Two Egyptian policemen have been convicted in the killing of 28-year-old Khaled Said whose death in June of 2010 became a rallying cry for pro-democracy activists and, even more, for the uprising that overthrew Hosni Mubarak on February 18. Indeed, Said’s death has been compared to the self-immolation of Mohammed Bouazizi, the fruitseller whose death led to the Tunisian revolution, the catalyst for the Arab Spring protests.
After being detained by plainclothes policemen in an internet café, Said died under questionable circumstances in the Sidi Gaber section of Alexandria. Photos of his mutilated body showing a fractured skull, a broken jaw and numerous other signs of trauma were circulated on the Internet. Google marketing executive Wael Ghonim created a Facebook page, “We are all Khaled Said,” which soon had hundreds and thousands of followers.
The two policemen have been given sentences of seven years on charges of manslaughter instead of the more serious charges of murder. They claim that Said choked to death on a packet of drugs that he had swallowed as he approached them, but recent forensic reports have shown that the packet was forced into his mouth. Before he died, Said had posted a video on the internet that allegedly showed two policemen sharing the spoils of a drug bust.
Lawyers representing Said had expected the judge to charge the two policemen with murder:
In the courtroom, families of the two policemen shouted angrily at the judge over the guilty verdict, while activists and Said’s family complained the two police had gotten off lightly.
“Inside the court, the military police locked the doors of the court and the families of the two defendants literally beat up four lawyers [representing Said] in protest. Justice has not been done to Khaled Said and we will not budge,” Said’s uncle Ali Qassem told Reuters.
“The response to the verdict will be on the street and not inside the court,” he added.
Mahmoud Afifi, a spokesman for the April 6 Youth movement which played in an important role in the uprising, said that the verdict “allows for this sort of thing to happen again because it is not a deterrent, and it is not acceptable to us and to the entire Egyptian society.” Indeed, the verdict on charges of manslaughter casts further question about where the loyalties of Egypt’s current interim government, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), lie.
“I thought that they would be executed. I am shocked that they only got seven years. How can they brutally kill my son and get only seven years? Seven years is a sentence political activists get, how can a murderer receive the same sentence?”
Human rights activist and lawyer Hafiz Abu Seada has posted on Twitter that he is preparing a legal memo to appeal the sentence and to “change the charge from manslaughter to death by torture based on the anti-torture treaties to which Egypt is a signatory.”
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Photo of Said's mother Laila Marzouk visiting his grave by yamaha_gangsta