Blogger exposes new case of police brutality in Egypt



 
An Egyptian blogger has uploaded video accounts and statements from a family that claims it was subject to a police assault in their home in the Egyptian industrial town of Mahalla el-Kubra. Hanaa Saad Ibrahim says she was hit and insulted by a high-ranking police officer in the town and that the officer now is trying to persuade her to withdraw charges against her through intermediaries.
 
By ALEXANDRA SANDELS
 
Egypt Torture
Screen shots of videos obtained of people being tortured.

BEIRUT, July 10, 2009 (MENASSAT) — In a new case of alleged police brutality, thirty-seven-year-old Hanaa Saad Ibrahim says a police force from Mahalla el-Kubra’s no.1 police station illegally entered her house on June 28, 2009 and assaulted her and members of her family.

“I was on the roof of our building when they arrived. Our cleaner came up and told me that there was someone downstairs. I was expecting my son’s private tutor at the time, but when I went downstairs there was a group of them there, around 8-10 men,” Ibrahim told Daily News Egypt in a recent interview.

Ibrahim claims that police officer Haitham El-Shamy, head of investigations at the Mahalla no.1 police station, partook in the raid and started hitting her when she asked him to present a warrant for entering and searching her house.

“They went into the apartment and started searching it, breaking things in the process. When I asked El-Shamy whether he had a warrant to do this he slapped me on the face twice and insulted me. They then went into my daughters’ room despite the fact that I told them they were inappropriately dressed,” she explained.

El-Shamy and the police force had supposedly come to Ibrahim’s home for charges against Ibrahim’s brother issuing a bad check.

When Ibrahim’s 17-year old son, Mohammed, saw El-Shamy slapping his mother, he tried to intervene and was subsequently ordered to be taken to the police station.

Ibrahim’s sister, Sahar, is also to have been injured in a scuffle with the police at the scene.

Egyptian blogger Mohammed Maree, moderator of the blog “Mahalla to Cairo,” recently went to visit the family and published their video accounts and statements of the story on his blog. 

He says he first heard about the story from a friend and then decided to try to find the family.

“I received news from friends about a family being subject to torture in the hands of the head of the police station in Mahalla. I got a hold of their address and called them and they agreed to speak to me,” Maree told MENASSAT in an email conversation.

In a long blog post, Maree provides a detailed account of what Ibrahim and her husband Alaa El-Sayyed Sharaf  said happened in their home on June 28.

“Hanaa continues by saying she received further injuries when she was dragged down the stairs….and then people gathered as she was dragged out in the street in her house clothes and with her hair out in the open. At this moment, she tried to cling onto the police truck in which her son was being held. And she managed to hold on to the car but the police officers inside kicked her with their legs,” wrote Maree.

Since the incident, Ibrahim says she and her family have received visits from “tens of members” of Egypt’s ruling National Democratic Party in Mahalla and other personalities she believes are connected to the police officer that allegedly assaulted her.

She believes this is the case because they have continuously tried to persuade her to drop the charges she has mounted against El-Shamy during their visits to her house.

Ibrahim, however, remains defiant and says she will not withdraw the charges she has raised against El-Shamy.

Meanwhile, Maree calls on human rights activists and rights groups to show solidarity with the family and shed light on the case.

A string of cases exposing purported police brutality and torture in Egypt have surfaced in recent years. In late 2007, two police officers were handed jail sentences in a landmark court case for torturing a microbus driver in a Cairo police station the previous year.

The police officers had videotaped the abuse with a mobile phone camera and the footage leaked out to bloggers and human rights activists who uploaded the video on the Internet.

The notorious clip depicting driver Emad al-Kabir wrenched in pain as the police officers sodomized him with a iron stick sparked outcries from Egypt’s civil society and international human rights groups. The case attracted much unwanted media attention on the Egyptian authorities.

Many rights groups claim torture is a widespread and systematic practice in Egypt. Amnesty International released a highly critical report on the issue in 2007, which said Egypt was a torture center.

Egyptian officials, however, deny that torture is systematically practiced in the country.