June 24, 2010 / 7:55 PM / 9 years ago

HRW: Egypt should prosecute 2 police in cafe death

CAIRO, June 24 (Reuters) - Egypt should prosecute two policemen in the case of a man who died at an Internet cafe, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Thursday, citing strong evidence the officers had beaten Khaled Mohammed Said to death.

Numerous witnesses gave the rights group corroborating descriptions of how Said, 28, was killed in the port city of Alexandria on June 6.

“They grabbed him by the hair and banged his head against the iron door of the building and then repeatedly against the marble steps in the entrance,” the doorman of the building next to the cafe told HRW. “They kept beating him although he had stopped moving.”

Said had earlier posted a video on the Internet which his family said showed police distributing the spoils of a drug bust among themselves.

Images put out onto the Internet showed his battered body with a broken nose, fractured skull and dislocated jaw among other injuries.

An initial interior ministry inquiry concluded Said had choked after swallowing drugs. A second autopsy was held after public protests which confirmed asphyxia as the cause of death, but noted injuries resulting from a “collision with solid objects”.

“The reported forensic findings do not answer one basic question: how Khaled Said’s body acquired the shocking signs of a horrific beating, consistent with the accounts of numerous witnesses,” said Joe Stork, HRW’s deputy director for Middle East and North Africa.

The son of the Internet cafe owner told the rights group: “The last thing Khaled said was, ‘I am dying,’ but they didn’t stop ... Khaled has stopped moving, but they continued to kick him, saying, ‘You’re pretending to be dead?’”

A hour-long silent protest is planned for Friday in Alexandria and other cities, including Cairo.

Earlier protests in Cairo against police brutality have been forcibly broken up by police and dozens of protestors detained.

“Our strength is in our silence,” said a statement from Facebook group ‘We Are Khaled Said’. “We call for a silent protest in public spaces from Alexandria all the way to Aswan. Our call is for all and is not related to any political group.”

Mohamed ElBaradei, the former U.N. nuclear watchdog chief who might challenge for the presidency next year, has said he will take part. (Writing by Alastair Sharp; Editing by Matthew Jones)

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