Egyptian Police Sentenced In Landmark Torture Case

By Ellen Knickmeyer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, November 6, 2007

CAIRO, Nov. 5 -- An Egyptian judge sentenced two police officers Monday to three years in prison for presiding over the 2006 torture of a 21-year-old minivan driver in a Cairo police station.

The abuse of Emad el-Kabir became a landmark in Egyptian rights cases -- not because of the police torture, which rights groups say occurs daily here, but because police recorded the torture on a cellphone video camera.

Egyptian bloggers obtained the clip and posted it on the online video site YouTube. The video spurred greater reporting of torture in Egypt and heightened international criticism of human rights abuses by Egyptian authorities.

Kabir, now 22, thrust his hands in the air in victory when court officials announced the conviction and sentence Monday. "Thank God!" he shouted.

"I've regained my rights," Kabir said. "I don't want anything more than that."

Judge Samir Abul Mati said he had spared defendants Islam Nabih, 28, and Reda Fathi, 25, the 15-year maximum sentence because of their youth.

Police took Kabir to their station in a working-class neighborhood of Cairo in January 2006 after he intervened in an argument between his cousin and police. Police used a cellphone to record the mistreatment that followed: Pinioning Kabir's hands, police sodomized the man with a wooden pole as officers jeered.

Kabir told rights groups that police said they intended to humiliate him by circulating the recording among his friends.

Police treatment of Egyptians often is openly rough -- officers slap street children in full view of passersby, for example. Local rights groups say torture is systemic and that poor training leads police to rely on beatings to obtain confessions.

The Egyptian Organization of Human Rights said it records about 400 cases of torture by police each year. About 20 percent of cases are prosecuted, the organization said.

Police and Egyptian authorities say that cases of torture are isolated events and that authorities prosecute each instance that comes to their attention.

Egypt has been the second-largest recipient of U.S. aid, after Israel, since the 1978 Camp David peace accords. The U.S. House of Representatives this year voted to withhold $200 million in aid unless Egypt improved its human rights record, among other conditions.

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