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Egyptian street vendor tortured and killed in police detention, say reports

Rights groups have highlighted ongoing police brutality in Egypt as cases of torture and deaths in detention continue to arise
Egyptians protest at the police killing of a Cairo street vendor in April 2016 (AFP)

An Egyptian street vendor has reportedly been killed by a police officer amid reports of severe police brutality in detention.

The family of Magdy Khalil, a 50-year-old vendor, accused a policeman at the Al-Amaryia police station in Cairo of torturing their relative to death after his arrest, reported the Egypt Daily News on Wednesday.

The family’s lawyer, Ali Al-Halawany, said that Magdy was arrested on Sunday while driving an animal-led cart with two of his friends.

Relatives learned about the death on Monday and decided to transfer the body to Al-Zaytoon hospital, where they found signs of assault and torture on his body.

Halawany added that they then transferred the body to the Zienhom mortuary, where an autopsy took place. He expects the report will be issued within a week.

'They are forcing the witnesses to say that he died naturally and argue that the whole incident is a raid on drug dealers'

- Relative of Magdy Khalil

But the authorities disputed the family's version of events.

Ministry of Interior’s media office said that Khalil fainted in the police station and died while he was being transferred to the hospital.

Meanwhile, Alahram newspaper reported the prosecutor general as saying that Magdy died when the cart he was driving, along with two other companions, crashed as they were being chased by the police.

After the incident, riot police and security armoured cars surrounded the police station for fear of retaliation from the victim’s family.

A member of the family told Daily News Egypt that they first feared Khalil had died in a car accident but, after asking around, they found that Khalil had been dragged to the police station after his cart crashed by accident into a minibus carrying police officers.

The victim’s relative added that Khalil was beaten and dragged on the floor, then tortured with fire. “They are forcing the witnesses to say that he died naturally and argue that the whole incident is a raid on drug dealers,” the relative added.

A video circulating online showed the body of Khalil, including footage showing blood coming from his back and from his anus.

Policeman sentenced to life in prison

Reports of the incident came as a Cairo criminal court sentenced another Egyptian policeman on Wednesday to life in prison for the killing of a street vendor in an incident that ignited demonstrations against police brutality.

The court convicted officer Zeinhom Abdel Razzek of murder after the pair quarreled over the price of a cup of tea in a Cairo suburb earlier this year. He was also convicted of the attempted murder of two passersby he wounded in the shooting.

Video footage of the incident showed angry protesters overturning a police vehicle while chanting “the police are thugs”. During the incident's aftermath, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called for police who make mistakes to "immediately" be held responsible.

In February, another policeman shot dead a driver using his official firearm following an argument over the price of ferrying goods, sparking protests in a Cairo neighbourhood.

Sisi subsequently asked parliament to amend the law to toughen sanctions against police abuses.

Ongoing police brutality

Egypt’s police have been on the defensive after rights groups denounced alleged torture and deaths in detention, as well as arbitrary arrests and the disappearances of government opponents.

Cases of death in detention are dealt amid secrecy by security forces and the prosecution. The ministry doesn’t release public statements about such violations, but only gives statements to journalists on condition of anonymity, reported Daily News Egypt.

Usually statements suggest that prisoners died naturally before the start of any investigations.

Likewise, prosecutors only release statements to state media and prosecution reports are publicised when the police violations spark nationwide controversy, the newspaper added.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.