By Jon Jensen and Ian Lee:
ALEXANDRIA, Egypt – The family of a 20-year-old man found dead in the Mahmoudia Canal said he was tortured to death by police officers from the Sidi Gaber Police Station in this coastal city. Two policemen from the same station are facing charges in connection with the death of another Alexandria man.
Ahmed Shaaban was on his way to a wedding with a friend, Ahmed Farag, on Nov. 6, when he disappeared. According to his sister, 30-year-old Naglaa Shaaban El Sayed, both young men were arrested and then separated. Farag is still in police detention.
The next day the family went searching for Ahmed Shaaban, when they saw Farag being transferred from one police station to another. The family asked Farag about their son, who said that he saw Ahmed run away that night.
The family inquired about Ahmed Shaaban twice at the Sidi Gaber police station after they saw his motorcycle parked outside. Officers there told them that they didn’t know Shaaban’s whereabouts. The family’s lawyer said they then filed a missing person report at the Moharram Bey Police Station.
On Wednesday, the family received an anonymous phone call saying a jacket and a mobile phone, matching a description of their son’s belongings, were found near the Mahmoudia canal. The discovery prompted the family to search the canal for his body, his sister said.
The next day the family went to the Moharram Bey Station. After waiting for two hours without a response, the family said they wanted to bury their son, assumed at that point to be dead. It was only then, according to Naglaa, that a police officer told them that Ahmed Shaaban’s body was in the morgue.
When the family arrived at the morgue, they found Ahmed Shaaban’s head smashed and his shoulders ripped apart. The body also had large bruises in the groin area on the back of his legs.
The family’s lawyer, Mina Girgis Kamel, said these injuries were consistent with torture.
His body also looked as if it has been in the canal for two days, Naglaa said.
Apart from identifying clothing and documentation, the only way to recognize Ahmed Shaaban physically, she continued, was through a known mark on his thumb.
The police accompanied the family from the station to the funeral, an unusual procedure which made the family suspicious.
“The police didn’t allow us to take a picture of the body because they didn’t want another Khaled Saeid case,” Ahmed’s aunt, 45-year-old Roqia Aboul Nour, told Daily News Egypt.
Two policemen from the Sidi Gaber police station are currently standing trial in Egypt after being charged with illegal use of force while apprehending Khaled Saeid, a 28-year-old Alexandria man who eyewitnesses saw being beaten to death earlier this year.
“I’m burning inside with anger. I can’t believe he’s gone,” said Ahmed Shaaban’s 50-year-old mother, Mona Hassan Tammam, through tears in her apartment.
The family claimed Sidi Gaber police officer Ahmed Othman had a vendetta against their son.
Khaled Saeid’s family had accused Othman of ordering their son’s murder too, but he was not charged by prosecutors.
The Ministry of Interior didn’t issue an official statement on the case or answer questions about it by press time.
Ahmed Shaaban, who worked at a laundromat with his sister, was arrested last year following a verbal argument with Othman, Naglaa said. He was detained and beaten and then tried, she added.
The court acquitted Ahmed Shaaban in that case.
“It’s known by all the youth in Alexandria that Sidi Gaber Police station is like hell, like an execution area. Everyone passing the station runs away,” Aboul Nour told Daily News Egypt.
The family is currently waiting for the official forensic report but said they would get experts from Cairo for another autopsy if they disagree with the initial report.
Kamel, who pointed to several police violations including allegedly detaining Ahmed without cause, said the family sent complaints to the Minister of Interior, the Attorney General of the Eastern Prosecution
Offices and the head of the Sidi Gaber Prosecution office.
“I won’t abandon my brother’s rights. We’ll take the legal way first,” said Mohamed Shaaban El Sayed, 30, Ahmed’s brother. “But if not, we will get his rights our own way.”
–Additional reporting by Mohamed Effat