Cairo’s prosecutor’s office decided on Saturday to open an investigation into a case of a man who died while in custody at the Hadayeq al-Qubba Police Station.
Ahmed Zalat, a 39-year-old man who was arrested on Friday after being accused of stealing documents from a law firm, was transferred to the Zeitoun Hospital later that night, a few hours after he was detained at the station. His family were told by hospital staff that he was pronounced dead on arrival, the privately owned Al-Shorouk newspaper reported.
The circumstances around Zalat’s death remain unclear and prosecution is currently waiting for the official autopsy report to determine the cause.
The prosecution is also planning to review surveillance tapes from the police station and listen to testimonies of police personnel present at the station during the time of the incident, according to privately owned newspaper Youm7.
Zalat’s family assembled in front of the police station earlier on Saturday to protest his death, prompting police forces to disperse the crowd and allegedly arrest four people, according to privately owned website Sada al-Balad. However, Al-Shorouk reported that the prosecution has denied being notified of these arrests.
There are hundred of claims of police torture and mistreatment of detainees in Egypt every year, according to the Human Rights Watch world report. Police brutality and violence is a widespread and systematic practice in Egypt, and detainees are often subjected to beatings, prolonged painful stress positions and electrocutions, according to the report.
The latest publicly known incident of a death in custody occurred in January of this year, when Mohamed Abdel Hakim, also known as Afroto, died a few hours after being detained at the Moqattam Police Station. At the time, eyewitnesses told Mada Masr that Afroto was beaten to death, and his family accused police personnel of torturing him. An investigation into the case is currently underway.
Similar incidents were investigated in 2017, after Mahmoud Sayed died while in custody at the Haram Police Station. His family accused police of torturing him, citing signs of physical abuse on his body. Earlier that year, 30-year-old Palestinian Waseem Daghmash also died in Egypt’s Talbiya Police Station, prompting Palestinian media outlets to claim that he was killed by security forces.