Interior Minister Magdy Abdel Ghaffar on Friday ordered an urgent investigation into the death of Magdy Makeen in Al-Amiryia police station.
Makeen was allegedly tortured by about 10 police officers inside the station after he was arrested on 13 November while driving a cart with two of his friends. His family found out about his death on 14 November and decided to transfer the body to Al-Zaytoun hospital, where they found signs of assault and torture on his body.
A delegation from the parliamentary Human Rights Committee, along with high-ranking officials from the ministry, visited the police station on Friday to inspect the situation.
The officials revealed the outcome of the prosecution’s investigations, noting that it has listened to all sides, and made a number of decisions. The first one was to accelerate the autopsy process.
The second decision was to question the accused police officers and suspend them until receiving the final autopsy report, listen to witnesses, and watch surveillance cameras from the police department.
The delegation is also preparing a visit to the victim’s family.
Despite ongoing investigations, no news was published on the suspension order for any of the accused officers in the case.
The incident went viral on social media platforms through a trending hashtag with the victim’s name which was used along with posts calling for an end to police brutality and accountability for those who tortured him to death.
Questions arose over the reasons behind Makeen’s death, particularly after local media reports published an alleged autopsy report stating that the citizen died due to a drop in his blood circulation, as he suffered from diabetes, and not due to torture.
The Department of Forensic Medicine responded to this by denying the validity of the circulated report, saying that it did not yet conduct an autopsy on the victim’s body, and that it only issued a burial permit for him.
The department explained that to help with burying the victim, it used a ”drop in blood circulation” as the reason for his death.
It further clarified that the department signed a permit for undergoing an autopsy on Makeen’s body, as it took samples prior to his burial. It added that the results will take time to be issued, until which the reason of death will remain unclear. It concluded that the report will be sent to the general prosecution immediately following its release.
Previously, Interior Ministry officials gave different and contradictory narratives about the incident, including that Makeen fainted in the police station and died while he was being transferred to the hospital. Another narrative stated that he died when he crashed his vehicle while he was being chased by the police. It was also claimed that Makeen was in possession of narcotics.
A Bishop from the Minya Church and four priests visited the victim’s family in Cairo’s Al-Zawya Al-Hamra district, in order to express their solidarity with the victim and his case. Additionally, political parties and figures, journalists, and human rights activists condemned the incident and expressed solidarity, demanding serious confrontation of police brutality and accountability of the accused police officers.
Member of parliament’s Economic Committee Nadia Henry submitted a request for information to parliamentary speaker Ali Abdul Aal, regarding the repeated violations against citizens by police officers. Henry also called on Prime Minister Sherif Ismail and Abdel Ghaffar to order investigations into these incidents.
She supported her request with Article 55 of the Constitution, which stipulates: “Anyone who is arrested, detained, or has his/her freedom restricted shall be treated in a manner that maintains his/her dignity. He/she may not be tortured, intimidated, coerced, or physically or morally harmed, and may not be seized or detained except in places designated for that purpose, which shall be adequate according to healthy, humane levels.”
She further urged the government to provide clarification on the regular reoccurrence of these violations, and demanded that perpetrators in torture cases be held accountable.
Henry was not the only one to call for the previous demands, as a number of other political parties and figures made the same demands.
Since the beginning of 2016, there has been a string of cases of police abuse directed against civilians. Cases of death in detention are handled in secrecy by security forces and the prosecution. The ministry doesn’t release public statements about such violations, and only gives statements to journalists on condition of anonymity.
There have been hundreds of complaints documented by non-governmental organisations addressing torture in police custody and detention centres. The Interior Ministry usually responds to these complaints by denying that this abuse is systematic, explaining that these cases are “individual” and “do not represent the ministry as whole”.