First Published: 2013-02-05


Egypt culture minister resigns over police abuse


Activist’s death in custody reignites calls for police reform as culture minister steps down in protest at police abuses.


Middle East Online

By Samer al-Atrush - CAIRO

Ire in Egyptian streets against police

An Egyptian minister resigned on Monday in protest at police abuse as demonstrators and riot police clashed in the Nile Delta after the funeral of an activist who died in custody, state media and witnesses said.

The activist, Mohammed al-Guindi, 28, had been arrested in Cairo's Tahrir Square last month after joining protests demanding change on the second anniversary of the country's uprising.

The opposition says Guindi's death proves the police have not reformed since the uprising, which broke out on January 25, 2011, a date which is marked as Police Day in Egypt.

His death on Monday after police transferred him unconscious to hospital came days after policemen were filed beating and dragging a naked man, prompting Culture Minister Mohammed Saber Arab to resign, state media reported.

The official MENA news agency said Arab tendered his resignation on Monday, without elaborating, while the state's Al-Ahram newspaper reported on its website that Arab resigned over the footage of police abusing the man.

In Tanta, witnesses said that police fired tear gas as marchers approached the provincial headquarters following Guindi's burial in the city.

Protesters, joined by residents of the Nile Delta city, then showered police with stones, witnesses said.

Guindi's lawyers say that after his arrest he was taken to a police camp in Al-Gabal al-Ahmar in Cairo where he was subjected to torture, before being sent several days later to the capital's Al-Helal hospital.

The Popular Current, to which Guindi belonged, said the activist died "as a result of torture."

Guindi's death and the footage of police abuse have confronted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi with uncomfortable parallels with Hosni Mubarak's regime, deposed in 2011 after the uprising, aimed at least in part against police abuses.

The presidency said in a Facebook statement that it had asked the public prosecutor to probe Guindi's death, stressing there is "no return to rights abuses of citizens and their freedoms... after the January 25 revolution."

The presidency had also said it deplored what it described as the "shocking footage" of police beating and dragging 50-year-old Hamada Saber during clashes outside the presidential palace on Friday.

The interior ministry has ordered an investigation into that incident, insisting it upholds human rights.

But images of Guindi's face bruised and battered on a hospital bed and the footage of Ahmed Saber's beating show how little has changed, according to rights groups.

Violence and torture 'systematic'

In a report published on the anniversary of the uprising, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights said police violence was still rampant.

"The Egyptian police continue to systematically deploy violence and torture, and at times even kill," EIPR said.

The group said it investigated dozens of cases of torture in recent months, noting "the consistent use of physical and psychological violence against detainees, which in many cases led to death."

Within hours of the news of Guindi's death, furious activists took to social networking sites condemning police brutality and calling for change.

Guindi "is not the first to die (of torture) under Morsi. But he is a political activist, that's why you know his name," tweeted Hossam Bahgat, EIPR's director.

"Youth still tortured & killed in quest for human dignity. Regime oblivious that violence begets violence & brutality is sure to backfire," said leading dissident and former UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei.

"We will not get out of this cycle of violence except with the success of our revolution, which primarily called for the end of the police state and the oppression of the interior ministry," said Nirvana Shawky of the Egypt Freedom party.

Hundreds turned out in Tahrir Square for funeral prayers for Guindi and another activist who was shot and fatally wounded in protests on Friday, including Popular Current chief Hamdeen Sabbahi.

"Either we get justice for them, or we die like them," the mourners chanted.

Tributes have poured in for Guindi on Twitter and Facebook, with activists dubbing him the "new" Khaled Said, a man who was beaten to death by police in 2010 and who became a symbol of the fight against police brutality.


Iraq forces make gains against IS near Mosul

Italian PM blocks EU sanctions threat against Russia over Aleppo

US officials: Iran boosting arms sales to Huthis via Oman

Pentagon chief in Turkey for talks on tensions with Iraq

Food crisis reaching critical levels north of South Sudan

Islamic Jihad stages show of force in Gaza

UN says 'crimes' in Aleppo are 'of historic proportions'

IS sniper kills Iraqi journalist in Kirkuk

US official says coalition should target IS in Raqa after Mosul

Moscow extends Aleppo ceasefire

Italy PM says officials should have voted against UNESCO Jerusalem resolution

Syrian ‘Toy Smuggler’ accused of fraud

UN: IS may use civilians as human shields in Mosul

Armed men attack refugee boat off Libya

US says will work with Turkey to deal IS 'lasting defeat'

Moscow ‘highly concerned’ at jihadists’ refusal to leave Aleppo

Four Palestinians arrested by their security forces for settlement visit

Mauritania president says no change to two-term limit

UN delays Aleppo evacuations due to lack of security assurances

Oman denies reports of arms smuggling to Yemen

Israel looking to buy three more German submarines

83 migrants rescued off Cyprus

Under pressure in Mosul, IS fighters attack Kirkuk

Air strikes hit Yemen rebels despite ceasefire

Arab coalition accuses Yemen rebels of breaching truce

Israeli occupation troops kill Palestinian teenager

Iraqis flee IS-held Mosul for war-torn Syria

Five years after his death, Kadhafi's 'Green Book' is ridiculed in Libya

Iraq issues warrant for former governor of Mosul

EU leaders threaten sanctions against Assad allies

Syria army urges residents to evacuate Aleppo during ceasefire

British warships shadow Syria-bound Russian naval force

Turkey unexpectedly keeps interest rate steady

British PM urges united EU response to Russia over Syria 'atrocities'

UN gets ‘green light’ from all parties for Aleppo evacuations

Iran president: we must be hospitable to foreign businessmen

British Al-Jazeera reporter freed in Somalia

Turkish planes raid US-backed Kurdish militias

Scattered clashes undermine fragile Yemen truce

Iraq PM: Mosul offensive moving ‘faster than expected’

Former army commander Aoun to be Lebanon president

Israel PM concerned Obama may act before leaving office

Trump in unprecedented assault on US political convention

Kurds launch fresh push against IS around Mosul

Russia's Aleppo ‘humanitarian pause’ takes effect