Pubdate: Thu, 10 Feb 2011
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Page: A - 3
Copyright: 2011 The Washington Post Company
Author: Ernesto Londono, Washington Post


Alexandria -- Had it not been for a leaked morgue
photo of his mangled corpse, tenacious relatives and the power of
Facebook, the death of Khaled Said would have become a footnote in the
annals of Egyptian police brutality.

Instead, outrage over the beating death of the 28-year-old man in this
coastal city last summer, and attempts by local authorities to cover
it up, helped spark the mass protests demanding the ouster of Egypt's
authoritarian president.

The story of Said's death is in many ways the story of today's Egypt,
where an authoritarian regime is being roiled by a groundswell of
popular anger. Fear and resentment of the police has been a prominent
theme, and when Google executive Wael Ghonim created a Facebook page
titled "We are all Khaled Said," the grisly morgue photo went viral
and the public had a rallying point.

"Every family in Egypt has seen something like this happen to a
member," Ali Kassem, Said's uncle, said Tuesday. "I will feel like I
have attained justice only if the regime falls and a new government is

Said's first brush with the detectives accused of killing him came
about a month before he was bludgeoned to death in early June,
according to Kassem, who provided the following account.

Police officers at an Internet cafe below his apartment were
exchanging a video that showed officers dividing seized narcotics and
cash. Relatives think the clip was delivered via Bluetooth to Said's
computer by accident. The young man shared it with friends, who
forwarded it to others.

Two of the detectives implicated in the video approached Said outside
his building, in the Sidi Gaber district of Alexandria, about noon
June 6. One grabbed him by the shoulder and hauled him inside the
Internet cafe.

The officers smashed Said's head against a marble table repeatedly,
until the owner of the shop asked them to take it outside. They then
dragged Said inside a nearby building where the two kicked him and
smashed his head against stone steps, witnesses later told relatives.

The next day, Said's mother was notified that her son was at the
morgue. The cause of death, she was told, was severe cardiovascular
asphyxiation caused by a high level of drugs in his system. The
initial police report the family was given said Said had apparently
died after he swallowed a bag of marijuana.

Finding that account suspicious, relatives bribed a guard at the
morgue to take a photo of the corpse. It showed that Said's skull had
been cracked and his face disfigured.

After local prosecutors expressed little interest in pursuing the
case, Kassem, who was a father figure to Said, began holding news
conferences. Said's cousins created a page on Facebook to expose what
they called police brutality.

Under pressure, regional prosecutors opened an investigation that led
to the arrests of two detectives charged in the beating and an officer
accused in the cover-up. The case has not gone to trial.

For years, human rights groups have documented a pattern of abuse by
Egyptian police officers, a problem government officials have played
down and in some instances denied.  
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake