Following the death of 22-year-old painter Mohamed Abdel Hakim Mahmoud, known as Afroto, at the Moqattam Police Station, Egyptian media outlets have offered a number of explanations for what may have happened in the two hours between when Afroto was arrested and when he died.
The head of the Forensic Medical Authority, Hesham Abdel Hamid, was cited in the privately-owned Youm7 website as saying that Afroto had suffered from “internal bleeding and a severely ruptured spleen.” Abdel Hamid added that Afroto’s body bore no external signs of torture.
The details provided by media outlets regarding Afroto’s death are often contradictory, however. For example, the privately-owned Al-Bawaba news website published one story claiming that Afroto died at a hospital, and another story indicating that he died at the Moqattam police station where he was being detained.
By the morning following his death, anonymous security sources had informed several newspapers that Afroto died from overdosing on strox, a strand of synthetic cannabinoid. This narrative has been taken up by many Egyptian press outlets. An op-ed in the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper suggests that, because Afroto was unemployed and unmarried, he began using drugs. The op-ed then goes on to contrast Afroto against prominent Egyptian footballer Mohamed Salah, whom the author states endured a rough upbringing, but refrained from abusing drugs because of his faith in God. The columnist adds that people shouldn’t look too much into Afroto’s case, since his death is being abused by “revolutionaries” and “humanitarians” in order to reignite the bitter memories of the 25 January revolution.
Speaking to Mada Masr last week, Afroto’s mother and her friends responded to the claim that Afroto was a drug user, an allegation that his mother immediately denied. However, her companions then went on to state that “all young men take drugs. Women take drugs.” The group then collectively asked, “Even if he was a user, why did he die shortly after he was taken to the police station?”
On Saturday, Amr Adib’s “Kol Youm” (Every Day) broadcast a video that appeared to show Afroto’s father at the Moqattam police station admitting to an officer that his son did use strox. In the video, the father says, “I tried to prevent him from smoking and I beat him more than once to discipline him.” In contrast, privately-owned newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm reported that Afroto’s brother, Mahmoud, said that his father was pressured to make these remarks about his son.
On Friday, January 5, Afroto was hanging out with two friends outside his building in the Winch area in Moqattam’s Zelzal neighborhood, when police personnel from the investigations unit at the Moqattam Police Station arrived around 8 pm to conduct one of their recurring raids on the area. Afroto died two hours later.