An assistant detective and police officer were sentenced on Sunday to three years and six months in prison, respectively, for the controversial death of 22-year-old painter Mohamed Abdel Hakim Mahmoud, popularly known as Afroto, in police custody.
Afroto died at the Moqattam Police Station a few hours after he was arrested by police forces on January 5. At the time, eyewitnesses told Mada Masr that Afroto was beaten and tortured to death.
After the South Cairo Criminal Court issued the Sunday verdict, Afroto’s mother was rendered speechless. “The value of my son’s life does not equal a mere three years in prison,” she told Mada Masr. “Mohamed’s right [to justice] has gone to waste.”
Following his death, prosecutors launched two investigations: One involving the two police personnel charged with Afroto’s death and another involving 102 defendants accused of protest-related charges following demonstrations that took place in the wake of his death. The latter case is currently being tried before the Moqattam Misdemeanor Court.
The South Cairo Prosecution charged the two police personnel — both of whom were employed by the Moqattam Police Station where Afroto died — with unlawfully detaining the 22-year-old and beating him to death, and referred the case to trial on January 15.
According to the painter’s sister, the police officer convicted will not serve time in prison, because he has already spent 10 months in remand detention, while the assistant detective will still spend three years in prison, excluding the time already served in remand.
Afroto’s family reacted emotionally upon hearing the verdict, with his sister describing it as “unfair.” But the family had not expected a fair outcome, she added.
“After serving his sentence, [the detective] will be able to return to his life normally,” Afroto’s sister told Mada Masr.
Neither Afroto’s family nor journalists were allowed into the courthouse to hear the Sunday verdict, but relatives of the defendants were permitted to attend. There was also a heavy security presence in the area surrounding the courthouse, with steel barricades separating Afroto’s family from the relatives and friends of the defendants.
Residents from Afroto’s neighborhood wanted to attend the trial, but Afroto’s mother warned against it, fearing that the situation might become dangerous if the verdict was unsatisfactory, she said. “It is enough that Afroto’s friends are still on trial until now.”
Shortly after the painter’s death in custody, violent clashes broke out between security and Moqattam residents, with police arresting nearly 100 people.
During one of its raids on the Zelzal neighborhood in January, police forces arrested Afroto, who was sitting in front of his house with two of his friends. He was beaten before he was detained, according to eyewitnesses who spoke to Mada Masr at the time, and subject to more physical abuse in detention, according to another detainee. He died two hours after he was arrested.
Afroto’s mother now plans to move out of the neighborhood in Moqattam, she told Mada Masr, saying that she cannot continue living in the same place without her son. “Every time my other sons leave the house, I worry until they return.”