EGYPT: President Mubarak's son talks about alleged torture death of blogger
In a highly unusual move to contain public anger over the alleged torture death of a 28-year-old blogger last month, President Hosni Mubarak's son, Gamal, said that justice will be served against police officers charged in the case.
Gamal Mubarak, a top member of the ruling National Democratic Party who is often mentioned as a successor to his father, rarely speaks to the media about sensitive issues, especially something as volatile as the death of Khaled Saied.
However, the anger and demonstrations in the wake of the alleged beating of Saied at the hands of two police officers in Alexandria seems to have forced the 46-year-old politician to change his strategies ahead of the 2011 presidential elections.
"Justice must take its course, and this applies to the case of the death of Egyptian citizen Khaled Saied in Alexandria, especially after the prosecutor general referred the accused to court," Mubarak told Egyptian media. "The party insists on the accountability of any wrongdoer within the framework of justice, transparency and the rule of the law."
His comments came as a surprise to many. Hala Mustafa, a political analyst and NDP member, told Reuters that "the statement, which is the first of its kind, signals that mounting pressure and political awareness in Egypt have reached a new level capable of pushing the political reform process forward."
The Interior Ministry denied any role in the Saied's June 6 death after an autopsy report found that he died of asphyxia by choking on a plastic bag of narcotics. Nonetheless, pictures of Saied's battered face and body, reportedly taken at the morgue and posted online by activists, made millions of Egyptians believe otherwise, especially after witnesses confirmed Saied's arrest and his beating in public by plainclothes agents.
Human rights groups, including Amnesty International, rejected the official claim and called for a transparent investigation. After protests in Cairo and Alexandria, police officers Mahmoud Salah and Awad Ismail Suleiman were charged last week with illegal arrest and using torture and brutality.
Government critics claim that beatings of suspects by police officers have become common in a nation under 30 years of emergency law. Saied's brother said the two police officers should be charged with premeditated murder, and the case has increased pressure on the government at a time Egyptians are wondering what will unfold politically over the next year.
President Mubarak is yet to announce whether he will be the party's candidate in the upcoming elections. Gamal Mubarak is considered by many to be the NDP's first choice if his 82-year-old father does not run.
-- Amro Hassan in Cairo
Photo: A protester carrying a photo of Khaled Saied. Credit: Nasser Nasser / Associated Press