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2 policemen in Egypt get seven years for killing activist

October 26, 2011 | 12:52 pm

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REPORTING FROM CAIRO -- Two policemen were sentenced to seven years in prison Wednesday for killing a 28-year-old activist in a 2010 crime that sparked nationwide anger and helped spur this year's revolution that toppled President Hosni Mubarak's police state.

Sgt. Awad Suleiman and patrolman Mahmoud Salah Mahmoud were found guilty of manslaughter in the beating death of Khaled Said in the coastal city of Alexandria.

"The court sentences the defendants to seven years in jail for using cruelty against the victim," Alexandria Criminal Court Judge Moussa Nahrawy said in a statement read out during the hearing.

Widely viewed as one of the main triggers igniting the Jan.25 revolution that overthrew Mubarak, Said's death epitomized for many Egyptians the brutality of Mubarak's regime toward dissidents and political opponents.

The activist-blogger died after Mahmoud and Suleiman dragged him from an Internet cafe near his home and beat him. The defendants claimed Said died choking on drugs he tried to swallow while he was being apprehended.

Initial autopsy reports, which were heavily disputed and criticized by activists and human rights advocates, initially confirmed the officers' version of events. But subsequent examinations found that Said had been beaten to death.

Egyptian media reported that Said was targeted by police after he uploaded a video showing allegedly corrupt police officers distributing money and drugs they had confiscated from criminals. 

Dozens of Facebook groups formed and street demonstrations were held to protest police practices after Said's death. They included the organization "We are all Khaled Said," whose administrator, Wael Ghoneim, became a candidate for this year's Nobel Peace Prize for calling on thousands to protest.

After the verdict, Said's uncle said the ruling did not satisfy his family's expectations.

"Our lawyers weren’t given any chance by the court to include the latest autopsy report, which could have changed the charge from manslaughter to murder and increased the sentence," the uncle said.

Wednesday's ruling may appease many Egyptians, who were hoping that the toppling of Mubarak's regime would bring a just end to the trial, frequently adjourned over the last year. During Mubarak's rule, police officers were rarely convicted of corruption, torture and other crimes widely documented by human rights groups. 

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-- Amro Hassan

Photo: A demonstrator carries Khaled Said's photo in a protest June 6, 2011, one year after his death. Credit: Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Reuters

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