[Marxism] Egyptians outraged over cops beating naked man

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Feb 3 10:47:46 MST 2013


NY Times February 2, 2013
Egypt’s Government Apologizes After a Beating Is Televised

CAIRO — Egypt’s interior minister offered a rare apology on Saturday 
after officers under his command were seen on television beating a naked 
man two blocks from the presidential palace. But under what his family 
said was police coercion, the victim, Hamada Saber, said in an interview 
later that the officers had been helping rather than attacking him.

The spectacle of the beating quickly revived fury at Egypt’s police 
force, whose record of brutality helped set off the revolt against Hosni 
Mubarak, the former president, and served as a reminder that nearly two 
years later, the new president, Mohamed Morsi, had taken few steps to 
reform the police.

Mr. Morsi’s office issued a statement saying it was “pained by the 
shocking footage.”

More than 50 people have been killed over the last 10 days in fighting 
in several Egyptian cities, in some of the worst violence since the fall 
of Mr. Mubarak in 2011. The beating of Mr. Saber has provoked a 
different kind of outrage, crystallizing for many the collapse of order 
and civility that has derailed Egypt’s transition from its authoritarian 

In the shifting versions of the attack given on Saturday, it was hard to 
know exactly what happened.

In video images, a group of riot police officers are heard cursing at 
Mr. Saber on Friday night as they beat him on the ground and drag him 
across a street to an armored vehicle. A witness, Mai Sirry, said that 
when she saw Mr. Saber, his pants were around his knees. In its initial 
statement, the Interior Ministry said it regretted the beating and 
called it an “individual attack” that did not reflect police doctrine.

Later, though, in a television interview, Mr. Saber gave an account of 
the beating from his hospital bed in which he said the officers had come 
to help as he was running from a group of protesters who had stripped 
and robbed him. They had apparently thought he was an officer, he said, 
and left him alone after deciding he was “just an old man.”

“I was afraid,” he said, adding that as he ran away from the protesters, 
officers came to help. He ran from them too, but they pulled him back, 
he said, telling him he would die if he did not let them help him.

A woman who identified herself as Mr. Saber’s daughter Randa, speaking 
Saturday on another Egyptian channel, said her father was being prompted 
to lie during the interview and was “afraid to talk.”

“We were with him” when he was attacked on Friday, she said. “They took 
his clothes off and started kicking him, beating him,” she said, 
referring to the police. “They dragged him and put him in the car. All 
this happened. What he says are lies.”

Speaking to local news media on Saturday, the interior minister, Mohamed 
Ibrahim, said that after Mr. Saber was released from the hospital, he 
would invite him to the ministry’s offices to offer his apologies. He 
repeated Mr. Saber’s account, though he still acknowledged that the 
officers’ conduct was “excessive” and said he had ordered an investigation.

The latest violence deepened the sense of crisis in Egypt, and it 
undermined efforts by the country’s quarreling political forces to 
settle their differences. After the clashes, supporters and opponents of 
President Morsi blamed each other.

On Saturday, just days after leaders of a secular-leaning opposition 
coalition sat down at a rare meeting with representatives of Mr. Morsi’s 
Freedom and Justice Party, the opposition group released a statement 
saying it was “aligned” with those who want “to topple the regime of 
tyranny, and domination of the Muslim Brotherhood.”

In Tahrir Square early on Saturday morning, Mr. Morsi’s prime minister, 
Hesham Qandil, bore the brunt of the antigovernment anger. He was forced 
to cut short his visit to protest tents in the square after he was 
heckled, according to state media. His office said Mr. Qandil left to 
avoid creating a “pretext” for violence.

In a speech later in the day, the prime minister acknowledged the 
widespread perception that both the government and opposition were 
losing control. “Let us admit that the government, all the political 
forces, all the parties failed in containing the youth,” he said. “This 
is something that we all have to work on.”

At least one person was killed in the clashes on Friday, which broke up 
what had been a peaceful afternoon sit-in, when a small group of 
protesters, some wearing masks, tried to ram the gates of the 
presidential palace, according to video of the episode.

David D. Kirkpatrick contributed reporting.

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