Egyptian blogger uncovers new alleged case of police torture

Egyptian blogger and anti-torture activist Wael Abbas recently uploaded footage on his blog that allegedly depicts a man being tortured in a police station in the Egyptian city of Port Said. The perpetrator, says Abbas, is thought to be the head of investigations at the station.
Egypt torture

CAIRO, August 17, 2009 (MENASSAT) — The new video, uploaded by Abbas late last week, shows a man with his hands tied, screaming from what appears to be an iron cell door, with blood streaming down his bare torso. He appears to have whip marks on his stomach and his back. Hanging from the door, the man keeps calling for mercy from a certain “Mister Mohammed.”

“Please stop, please stop, Mister Mohammed, I will die. I am not an animal, I am a human,” the man calls out.

The voice purported to be that of “Mister Mohammed” answers: “Stop talking, you are a son of a bitch.” 

"A known torturer" 

Speaking to MENASSAT about the video, Wael Abbas said that “Mister Mohammed,” who the victim keeps referring to, is allegedly Mohammed Abu Ghazal, head of the investigations unit at Al-Dawahary police station in Port Said. 

The clip, continues Abbas, was sent to him as an email attachment by a person in Port Said. The sender claimed the footage showed a man being tortured by Abu Ghazal at Al-Dawahary. 

Other than the bloodied victim calling for mercy, however, no other person appears in the one-minute long tape.

After uploading the footage, Abbas says he received a number of phone calls from people in Port Said who told him that officer Abu Ghazal is a known torturer in the city.

“People over there called me, telling me that this police officer is famous for torturing people,” Abbas told MENASSAT. 

But as in previous cases involving alleged police torture caught on tape, the issue of authenticity is a returning dilemma. 

To the critics who question the validity of the clip, Abbas says he publishes the video that depict crimes in them, and it is then up to the authorities to investigate the matter. 

Torture and the media

This time around, however, the video has yet to catch the attention of the Egyptian authorities, let alone the Egyptian media, sighs Abbas. 

“There has been complete negligence of this video so far. No one has covered it in the Egyptian press as of yet. When did I upload the video? Like a week ago,” he said. 

The Egyptian media, he continues, tends to only cover “those cases of torture that are taken to court.” 

In 2007, a media storm was sparked over a notorious torture clip uploaded by Abbas and a number of other Egyptian bloggers that was brought to court. 

The chilling footage, showing Egyptian micro-bus driver Emad al-Kabir being tortured and sodomized by two Egyptian police officers with an iron stick, caused outcries from local and international human rights groups and attracted much media attention to the case, and torture practices in Egypt in general.

The clip uploaded by Abbas and his fellow blogging friends on the Internet was used as evidence in the landmark 2007 trial against the two police officers. The two police men were subsequently convicted and sentenced to prison terms-- a rare occasion. 

Following the case of Al-Kabir, in December 2007 Abbas received another clip of a supposed police officer forcing a woman to strip naked before him. Egyptian authorities reportedly opened an investigation into the case but little progress appears to have been made. Rumors, meanwhile, surfaced that the video was a fake.

After El-Kabir and the strip video, Abbas says the Egyptian media has paid less attention to the torture videos that keep surfacing from time to time. “After this incident with Emad al Kabir and the other video with the girl forced to strip naked, media here have stopped covering police torture. I don’t know why really,” said Abbas. 

If the victim in the new video could be identified, however, Abbas believes activists would have a much stronger case. “If we were able to find out the name of the victim we could do much more. There are some activists trying to follow up on who he is,” he said. 

"Not first torture case"

Abbas believes the new leaked footage does not show the first case of police torture taking place in the Egyptian port city. According to his sources in Port Said, he says, the city’s police force is a “brutal” one. Torture, they say, is rather commonplace there. 

“People have been telling me that this (police torture) has been taking place over there for some time. The police are harsh with the people living in the slums and they are brutal, they say,” added Abbas.

Abbas has as of yet not been directly approached about the video’s authenticity. But, he says, rumors are circulating that the video is a fake.  “I haven’t been attacked directly. But I have received information that people are saying the video is fake.” 

Does he have high hopes that the authorities will investigate the clip?

Not really. 

“The security services and the Ministry of Interior will do their best to prove the video is a fake. They didn’t reach a conclusion with the other videos…like the one showing the girl being forced to strip. They didn’t find neither the officer nor the girl,” he concluded. 

Human rights groups have continuously claimed that torture in Egypt is pervasive.  In a 2007 report,  Amnesty International referred to Egypt as a torture center, but Egyptian officials, however, deny that torture is systematically practiced in the country.