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4 Egyptian police officers charged with fatal torture

A forensics report released on Thursday reportedly shows that 47-year-old Talat Shabib died after a blow to his neck and back
Four Egyptian officers will be imprisoned on charges they tortured Talat Shabib to death (AFP)

Four Egyptian police officers will be imprisoned on charges that they tortured a man to death while he was in police custody, Luxor’s attorney general reportedly ordered on Friday.

The order comes after a forensics report, released on Thursday evening, confirmed that Talat Shabib, 47, died when a blow to his neck and back cut his spinal cord, the state-owned MENA news agency reported.

Five other low-ranking officers were also reportedly summoned for questioning in the case, the Mada Masr website reported.

On Tuesday evening, police arrested Shabib at a cafe in the Upper Egyptian city’s al-Amawya district on suspicion of possessing Tramadol, a recreational drug.

At 1am (11:00pm GMT) on Wednesday, police reportedly told Shabib’s family that he had died on his way to Luxor International Hospital, according to the Awsat Masriya news website.

The news triggered protests in front of the city’s police station of locals who said they believed Shabib had been tortured and killed by the police.

Security forces sprayed tear gas on the protesters and arrested 24 people who were released on Thursday morning, according to the state-owned MENA news agency.

Some reports have suggested that Shabib’s killing has refuelled the nationwide outrage against police abuses that were a key factor for the 2011 revolt the led to Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow.

On Thursday, ahead of the release of the forensic’s report, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said in a speech to a police academy that was broadcast on television, that officers found guilty of “committing mistakes” would be punished.

Authorities have also begun investigating last month’s death of a veterinarian in police custody in the Suez Canal city of Ismailiya. A police officer was detained for “causing death by beating,” a local judicial official told AFP.

Without mentioning the two cases, Sisi said in his speech that any police officer "at fault must be held accountable".

However, the president said the institution as a whole could not be faulted "because of the mistakes of an individual".

"How many police stations are there in Egypt? Three hundred? If there are any violations, they are in one or two police stations," said Sisi.

"If someone is guilty, he will be held accountable."

In late November, the interior ministry also said that prosecutors "conduct investigations into all incidents attributed to police officers".

Army chief Sisi ousted president Mohamed Morsi in 2013. Since then, the police force has largely rehabilitated itself, at least in the eyes of government supporters, despite a brutal crackdown on his predecessor's supporters.

Dozens of police officers were tried for deaths of protesters during the 2011 anti-Mubarak revolt but most were acquitted.