West Cairo prosecution ordered the detention of the head of the investigations unit at the Hadayek al-Kobba Police Station and his assistant for four days on Monday, pending further investigations. The two officials face allegations of torturing detainee Ahmed Zalat to death, forging an official legal complaint and illegally holding Zalat in custody.
One of Zalat’s relatives, who spoke to Mada Masr on condition of anonymity, said that a police station employee told him that Zalat was tortured in the head of investigation unit’s office, before police transferred him to a private hospital in the official’s car. Hospital personnel refused to admit the victim, however, so he was transported in a tuk tuk and left next to a public hospital in Zeitoun, where he was admitted as an unidentified patient, according to both hospital staff and Zalat’s family.
Zalat, 39, was arrested on Friday afternoon while sitting with his father-in-law in an ahwa, accused of stealing documents from a law firm.
Following his arrest, his family went to the Hadayek al-Kobba Police Station, but officials there “intentionally delayed giving us any information until 11 pm, when they informed us that he had died in the hospital,” Zalat’s relative said, adding, “in the hospital, we learned that he had died at 8 pm.” According to the privately owned Al-Shorouk newspaper, Zeitoun hospital pronounced Zalat dead on arrival.
Zalat’s family assembled in front of the police station on Saturday to protest his death, prompting police forces to disperse the crowd and allegedly arrest four people, according to the privately owned Sada al-Balad website. However, Al-Shorouk reported on Saturday that five people had been arrested, and quoted the west Cairo prosecution as denying being notified of any arrests.
Zalat’s wife Hagar Saad, who is pregnant, told Mada Masr that, following her husband’s arrest, a police force searched their house, which is located in the Khosous neighborhood of Qalyubiya Governorate, to Cairo’s north. During the raid, “an officer grabbed me from my hair, beat my face and threatened to arrest me after I gave birth,” Saad added.
Nadia Qutb, Zalat’s mother, also told Mada Masr that police personnel surveilled her family while they buried him, in an effort to prevent them from taking pictures of the body, which bore clear signs of torture. Qutb told Mada Masr that individuals, whose identity she did not disclose, attempted to mediate with Zalat’s family, and offered her a kiosk and a fridge in exchange for not pursuing any legal action regarding the incident.
Meanwhile, the prosecution is currently waiting for the official autopsy report from the Forensic Medical Authority to determine the cause of Zalat’s death, and is planning to review surveillance tapes from the police station and to listen to testimonies from police personnel present at the station during the time of the incident, according to privately owned newspaper Youm7.
A friend of the victim told Mada Masr that Zalat was based in Khosous, stressing that there was no animosity between him and any of the local police station personnel, adding “there was neither an official legal complaint, nor an arrest warrant, and there will be no mourning until justice is delivered.”
One of Zalat’s neighbors added to Mada Masr that the victim was financially supporting all of his extended family, which included three separate households, as well as his own. “Even if he was a criminal, he should not have died like that,” added the neighbor.
According to the Human Rights Watch world report, police brutality and violence is a widespread and systemic practice in Egypt, with detainees often subjected to beatings, prolonged painful stress positions and electrocutions.
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.