In Egypt, escalating police abuse amid a lack of reform

After some delays, my latest piece on escalating police abuse in Egypt is out in Al-Akhbar English:

On the evening of September 16, Atef al-Mansi walked up to the local police station in Meit Ghamr, an industrial town in the Nile Delta, to help file an assault complaint against the police. When he reached the gates, officers began beating him with the butts of their rifles and dragged him inside the station. He would not come out alive.

An hour earlier, police forces had launched a raid on cafes and shops in the nearby area of Wesh El-Balad, making several arrests. Witnesses said police overturned and smashed furniture while insulting and beating residents. One of those assaulted, an elderly proprietress, wanted to file a complaint against the police. Mansi – on vacation from work in Libya to visit his parents – offered to escort her to the station.

Family and friends of those arrested had already gathered outside to demonstrate against the brutal raid. These eyewitnesses later attested to Mansi’s beating at the hands of security forces. Shortly thereafter, the 47-year-old’s bruised body was dumped outside the station gates. He was pronounced dead upon arrival at hospital.

Mansi’s death prompted the demonstrations outside the station to grow, with some protesters hurling rocks at the police. Officers opened fire on the crowd, killing a second person, Sayed Adel, 24, and gravely wounding another, Rami Mohamed. Both were unarmed.

The Ministry of Interior later claimed a group of thugs had converged on the police station to try and free their friends who were detained inside and the police had responded with necessary force.

The incident in Meit Ghamr encapsulates the key characteristics of an internal security apparatus in Egypt that has remained untouched by reform nearly two years after the revolution: increasing levels of torture and use of deadly force against civilians; the continued targeting of poor and marginalized communities; and a reinvigorated sense of impunity. The only thing changed is an unyielding citizenry that is no longer silent in the face of abuse.

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