El-Baradei joins Egyptian demonstrators saying enough – stop torture

Ben Wedeman’s report for CNN today on yesterday’s demonstration in Alexandria [there was also a big demonstration in Cairo] against the death in police custody of Khaled Said, and against torture, is posted here.

One woman demonstrating told CNN that: “They want to tame us and they want to get us used to torture, even in the streets, and shutting up.”

Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency or IAEA in Vienna, now retired and returned home where he appears to be charting a new role in domestic politics, participated in the Alexandria demonstration.

The photo of ElBaradei below, taken during Friday’s protest, is from the My Name is Khaled Said page [it is in Arabic, Ana Ismi Khaled Said — it seems I can’t reproduce the Arabic script here] on Facebook.

The same site also shows the terrible closeup of Khaled Said’s bloodied face taken shortly after he was evidently beaten to death: in the close-up post-mortem photo, only a frontal view of his head can be seen, with blood running out from the side or back of the skull; his jaw and some of his teeth are broken, and a trianglular flap of his lower face is missing, from the lower lip down to the jaw line.

Mohamed ElBaradei at Alexandria demonstration 25 July 2010 - from Facebook

ElBaradei is head of a new Egyptian group or movement, formed at the end of February, called “National Association for Change” [it is not a political party but says it is working for political reform], and has said he may run for President of his countryif the elections are truly free and independent. Ayman Nur [Nour], a former journalist turned politician — and, as the U.S. State Department once noted “runner-up in Egypt’s 2005 presidential elections”, who has said he intends to run again in the 2011 elections — also reportedly participated in the demonstration.

After the demonstration on Friday, ElBaradei told journalists that the death of Khaled Said is a “heinous crime”, and said that “It’s a clear-cut message to the regime that the Egyptian people are sick and tired of practices that are inhumane … If they don’t get the message, then there is a problem with the regime; the writing is on the wall”.

Soha Abdelaty’s article published yesterday on the Middle East Channel of Foreign Policy Magazine, Egypt’s Emergency Law strikes again, is posted here. She is the deputy director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights [“an independent Egyptian human rights organization that was established in 2002 to promote and defend the personal rights and freedoms of individuals … established to complement the work of Egyptian human rights groups by adopting as its mandate, and focus of concern, a group of rights and freedoms that are closest to the human-being: his/her body, privacy and house”], and the organization’s English-language website can be consulted here.

Her account begins: “On June 6, a pair of police officers entered an Alexandria Internet cafe and began asking for the identification documents of everyone present. When 28-year-old Khaled Said objected to being searched without a warrant, the officers began to attack him, beating his head against a table and kicking him in the chest. They tied his hands behind his back and dragged him to a nearby building where they continued to smash his head, first against an iron door and then against the building’s marble steps. Witnesses heard Khaled begging them to stop, screaming ‘I’m going to die’, to which the officers responded: ‘You’re going to die anyway’. The officers dragged Said into their police car and drove him away, only to return several minutes later to leave his lifeless corpse in the street. The Ministry of Interior immediately attempted to blame the gruesome incident on ‘drugs’: The young man had died when he choked on a joint he was trying to hide as he was approached by the police. Any injuries sustained — his fractured skull, dislocated jaw, mangled face — were the result of his resisting arrest, they claimed … The Khaled Said case has offered a graphic demonstration of the emptiness of the pledge by the government of Egypt when it renewed the country’s decades-long period of emergency law that it would limit its application to terrorism and drug-related crimes. Khaled Said’s brutal murder is a chilling reminder of what emergency law — and Interior Ministry impunity — means for Egyptians. Frustration with that impunity is what leads protesters to take to the streets. In many ways, the case of Khaled Said is tragically symbolic of everything that is wrong with the state of emergency under which Egyptians have been living for almost three decades. In such an arbitrary and opaque system, torture and ill-treatment are a natural byproduct. And in fact, torture in police custody has been systematic and well documented since the 1990s. Khaled Said’s case is unusual only because his murder was witnessed by so many, captured on film, and distributed to thousands via Facebook”…

A photo of Khaled Said in life is also posted on Facebook:

khaled said

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