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Two Egyptian police arrested over 'torture' death in custody

Karim Hamdi was found dead in police custody after being arrested at a protest authorities said was in support of the Muslim Brotherhood
Egyptian police in front of the police academy during the trial of former president Hosni Mubarak (AFP)

Egypt's prosecution service on Thursday ordered the arrest of two police officers accused of torturing and beating to death a lawyer jailed after a protest, state media and lawyers said.

The victim, Karim Hamdi, "was arrested on Monday, referred to the prosecution on Tuesday and on Wednesday his lawyers found out he was dead," Malik Adli, a lawyer who represents protesters, told AFP.

Graphic images of Hamdi's injuries have been posted to Twitter, reportedly taken by Adli.

Adli said he did not know why Hamdi, a 28-year-old father of two, was arrested. His death has sparked outrage among his colleagues.

But the head of the bar association in northern Cairo, Mohammad Othman, said Hamdi was arrested for taking part in a protest in support of the banned Muslim Brotherhood.

A forensics spokesman, Hisham Abdel Hamid, told AFP the victim died after suffering "blows to several parts of his body with a blunt object".

The state-run MENA news agency said two national security police officers were arrested and remanded in custody pending an investigation into Hamdi's death.

MENA said the pair "are accused of beating and torturing a civilian, leading to his death in the Matariya police station" in north-eastern Cairo.

The prosecution has also summoned seven other policemen from the same station for questioning, it said.

Interior Ministry spokesman Hany Abdel Latif told AFP Hamdi had been "implicated in a terrorist cell and arrested in the company of another person who was armed".

He also said the ministry respected the prosecution service's decisions with regard to the two police officers.

Matariya, a working-class district, has been rocked by almost weekly anti-government protests, some of which have turned deadly.

The Brotherhood was branded a terrorist organisation after the army ousted democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.

Since then, the authorities have also launched a deadly crackdown on Morsi's supporters, in which hundreds have been killed and thousands arrested and jailed.

Last May, a government employee arrested by police was found dead at the Matariya station. His family said he had been tortured but police denied the allegation.