Two Egyptian police officers sentenced for 2010 death of activist

BY Sarah Sheffer  March 3, 2014 at 5:22 PM EST
Following his death at the hands of two Alexandrian police officers, Egyptian blogger Khaled Said became a symbol for protesters across the country. At a 2012 protest, an activist holds a sign emblazoned with Said’s image, along with the word “Retribution.”  The two officers were sentenced to ten years in jail for Said’s death on Monday. Photo by Egyptian activist Gigi Ibrahim.

Following his death at the hands of two Alexandrian police officers, Egyptian blogger Khaled Said became a symbol for protesters across the country. At a 2012 protest, an activist holds a sign emblazoned with Said’s image, along with the word “Retribution.” The two officers were sentenced to ten years in jail for Said’s death on Monday. Photo by Egyptian activist Gigi Ibrahim.

It could be called the match that started the blaze of Egypt’s Arab Spring uprisings. The 2010 death of activist and blogger Khaled Said by two police officers for apparent retribution in the seaside city of Alexandria sent shockwaves through a nation fed up with state corruption and police brutality.

On Monday, Awad Suleiman and Mahmoud Salah were each sentenced to 10 years in jail for the death of the 28-year-old blogger. The two men were originally sentenced to seven years on charges of excessive brutality, but a retrial was ordered by the court after Suleiman and Salah appealed the decision. The second time around, the men were found guilty of manslaughter and torture.

It was an online video clip Said had posted of the two officers dealing drugs that triggered the murder, according to other activists.

Khaled Said was in an Alexandrian internet cafe in June, 2010 when the two police officers apprehended him. Eyewitnesses, including the owner of the cafe, said the officers began to beat him and dragged him into a building across the street where they tortured him. According to the owner’s testimony, Said did not make it out of the building alive. He was later declared dead at a local police station.

Police said Said had died from choking on a bag of hashish he’d swallowed in an attempt to hide it from the police. This claim was backed up by an autopsy report by Egypt’s forensic authorities.

However, a photo of Said’s disfigured face was snapped by his brother in the morgue. The gruesome image showed clear signs of beating and torture and went viral after it was released by Said’s family online. It was reproduced as a rallying-cry and sparked a solidarity campaign called “We Are All Khaled Said.” It would become one of the country’s largest political opposition forums.

Continued outrage over Said’s death eventually helped fuel the Egyptian uprising in early 2011. It would result in the deposal of President Hosni Mubarak and his ruling National Democratic Party in just 18 days.

“We thank the judges for their hard work during the trial and we thank God that the verdict was somewhat satisfying for us,” said Mahmoud Abdel Rahman, the lawyer representing Khaled Said’s family.

The two police officers had pleaded not guilty and their lawyer said they will appeal the ruling.

As Egypt’s current interim military government leads a crackdown on opposition forces and Islamist extremists, complaints of police torture, unlawful detention and brutality are still common.