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EGYPT: Police officer imprisoned for torturing suspect

November 8, 2009 |  8:18 am

S1120096213244In a nationally followed case that highlighted Egypt's long-standing problem of human rights abuses, a police officer has been sentenced to five years in prison for torturing a mentally disabled suspect in July.

Col. Akram Soliman first appeared in front of a criminal court in the city of Alexandria in September after he was accused of detaining and beating Ragaie Soltan for eight days without any formal charges. Soltan had been taken into custody July 21 during a random police sweep of the homeless in the seaside city.

Soltan was transferred to a public hospital one week later, where he was diagnosed with brain concussion and internal bleeding after losing consciousness as a result of the physical abuse.

Human rights organizations and democracy campaigners rallied around Soltan's case as another example of the abuse many Egyptians face at the hands of police and intelligence agencies. Some activists said Soliman's five-year sentence was too lenient.

"We were really hoping for a more deterrent judgment. Article 282 of the Egyptian Penal Code states that an officer who tortured or illegally captured a suspect should receive life sentence with labor," said Moheb Aboud of the Victims Human Rights Institute, which organized a march condemning torture in prisons after Soliman's conviction.

"The Ministry of Interior deals very softly with cases like torture. If proven guilty, officers are sent to prison for short periods and they are reinstated in their jobs right after their release," the founder of the El Ghad opposition party, Ayman Nour, said. "Incidents like these have increased in our prisons because the government is sponsoring torture as a mean of dealing with suspects." 

Public anger over the torture of suspects and prisoners intensified beginning in 2007 when bloggers started posting videos of police abuse on the Internet. International human rights organizations regularly criticize Egypt for torture and civil rights violations.  

-- Amro Hassan in Cairo

Photo: Officer Akram Soliman. Credit: Sarah Carr