The prosecution referred two Homeland Security officers, charged with torturing to death a lawyer named Kareem Hamdy, to court on Tuesday.
The officers, a lieutenant colonel and a major, are to stand trial in front of the Criminal Court, where they will face charges of “torture until death”.
Although reports of deaths by the police have been increasing, this legal step is the first of its kind to be taken after the 25 January Revolution.
Article 52 of the 2014 Egyptian constitution says: “Torture in all forms and types is a crime that is not subject to a statute of limitations.”
Hamdy died in Matariya police station after being tortured by the officers to confess to possessing weapons and belonging to the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group. “He was arrested by the police who proceeded to interrogate him on the alleged crimes,” the prosecution said.
It added that the investigation findings concluded that during detention in the Matariya police station, he was tortured by the officers, who left several injuries in his body, leading to his death.
The forensic report said that Hamdy “suffered broken ribs and a severe internal bleeding in the brain, which confirms he was beaten”.
The Ministry of Interior told Daily News Egypt that one of the deaths occurred due to “a circulatory collapse”.
After the incident went viral in the media, ministry spokesperson Hany Abdel Latiff said that security forces are cooperating with the prosecution regarding the investigations into the death of Hamdy in the police station. However, Abdel Latiff added that Hamdy belonged to a “terrorist cell in Matariya”, asserting that the police will respect the decision of the prosecution.
The case caused outrage at the Lawyers’ Syndicate, where lawyers staged a protest denouncing what they called “crimes by the police”.
On 26 February, the Prosecutor General ordered a media gag on further investigations into the case.
Since the beginning of the year, reports of deaths in custody have been on the rise.
The El-Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence recently released a report on cases of torture and abuse in Egyptian prison and detention facilities during March.
From 26 to 29 March, the reports say, five cases of deaths in police custody were observed.
The most famous case in which a civilian was reported to have been tortured to death by the police was that of Khaled Said, who was killed in controversial circumstances in June 2010. According to eyewitnesses, Said was dragged outside an internet cafe and beaten by two policemen in Alexandria’s Sidi Gaber neighbourhood. They smashed his head against marble stairs, which resulted in his death. However, police claimed that he was a drug dealer who choked on a packet of drugs he swallowed.
The two policemen charged with killing Said are currently serving a 10-year prison sentence.