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Protestors condemning killing of activist are beaten, jailed

Activist at June protest holds photo showing Khaled Said's bloodied body
Activist at June protest holds photo showing Khaled Said's bloodied body

At several public demonstrations held throughout June to protest the brutal police killing of activist Khaled Said Qasem in Alexandria on 6 June, dozens of protesters were beaten and arbitrarily arrested, report the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR), the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

On 25 June, 55 people were arrested, among them bystanders. According to Human Rights Watch, police trapped around 100 protestors in an alleyway and started beating both female and male individuals who had nowhere to run. Earlier, on 13 June, 36 protestors were arrested at a demonstration against Said Qasem's murder. One protestor present said security officers were punching and kicking demonstrators.

"This cycle of security officials beating peaceful demonstrators, holding them for hours or days, and then finally releasing them without charge needs to stop," said Joe Stork of Human Rights Watch.

Khaled Said Qasem was beaten to death by undercover police shortly after he posted a video online that showed police officers splitting profits from a drug deal. The 28-year-old was arrested in an Internet café by plainclothes policemen and taken out to the street where plainclothes security men then fatally attacked him, according to witness accounts recorded by IFEX members. Although the police initially said that Said Qasem died because he swallowed drugs before his arrest, photos of his bludgeoned body have been widely circulated on social media websites in Egypt, RSF notes. On 3 July, two police officers were charged with torture, but not murder, in relation to Said Qasem's beating.

"It is rare for policemen to be prosecuted for abuses in Egypt and this prosecution is a step in the right direction," said RSF. "But we call on the Egyptian judicial system to go all the way and try them for murder."

Egypt's state of emergency law gives the police broad powers to overstep the right to peaceful assembly, search individuals without warrant and hold detainees indefinitely without charge.

Egyptian journalists were also targeted this past week with atrociously high fines, according to EOHR. On 28 June, two "El-Wafd" newspaper reporters were fined 240,000 EGP (approx. US$42,000) in a libel and defamation case filed by the vice president of the Egyptian Council of State and chairman of the Council's judges' club.

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