ALEXANDRIA: An Alexandria court sentenced three police officers to prison terms for torturing and humiliating a crime suspect in spring 2006.
The victim, Ibrahim Abbas, was reportedly arrested on suspicion of theft in April 2006 and subsequently forced by the policemen to walk around Alexandria wearing women’s clothing. He was then subjected to physical abuse at a local police station.
On Saturday, his assailants, police officer Yusri Ahmed Issa and two other low-ranking policemen, were handed five- and one-year prison terms respectively.
Wael Abbas, a blogger and key activist in Egypt’s anti-torture movement, told Daily News Egypt that the conviction of two police officers in last year’s landmark torture case of Emad Al-Kabir has prompted torture victims to speak out about their abuse.
“Before the case of Al-Kabir, we hardly saw any convictions in torture cases. People were afraid to talk about their experiences. The sentencing of the police officers encouraged them to tell their stories, Abbas continued.
It was in November 2007 that Captain Islam Nabih and Corporal Reda Fathi of Boulaq Al-Dakror police station were given prison terms for torturing and sodomizing microbus driver Emad Al-Kabir. Nabih and Fathi had videotaped the incident and the footage later leaked to bloggers and activists.
Abbas was one of the first to upload on his blog the notorious clip depicting a screaming Al-Kabir being sodomized with an iron stick in January 2006. The case caused uproar among civil society and attracted much unwanted attention to the Egyptian authorities.
Since Al-Kabir’s case, Egypt has witnessed several convictions in cases of police abuse, leading analysts and media to believe that the Egyptian government has become increasingly intolerant of torture.
Abbas, however, remains skeptical saying that convictions may reflect the government’s aim to sedate public opinion on the issue.
“There have been no specific orders from the Ministry to stop torture and abuse, added Abbas, meaning that more comprehensive measures are needed to rid Egypt of torture practices.
Egypt has come under constant criticism from rights groups who claim that torture is a widespread and systematic practice in the country’s police stations and intelligence facilities.
Following the conviction of Nabih and Fathi, London-based Amnesty International called for sweeping measures against torture in Egypt. Human Rights Watch referred to the convictions as a positive step while stressing the need for systemic reforms of widespread abuse .
On Saturday, the official website of the banned group the Muslim Brotherhood, Ikhwanweb, exposed a new case of alleged torture, claiming that a policeman severely abused a mentally-handicapped boy in Menoufiya governorate.
According to Ikhwanweb, the 16-year-old boy threw a handful of sand at a local police officer, which resulted in the officer hanging the boy from a tree beating and torturing him with electric cords.
The family of the 16-year old has reportedly issued a complaint to the police about the incident.
Human rights activist Hamdi Abdul Aziz said that while the government confesses that torture is being committed such practices are on the increase. The government is currently claiming that it carries out huge efforts to stop this phenomenon, as if to send a message to civil society institutions to forget about this phenomenon, argued Aziz in a statement on Ikhwanweb.