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Dispatches From Cairo: Torture in Post-Mubarak Egypt

Posted on Oct 30, 2011

Mourners gather around the coffin of Essam Atta at his funeral in Cairo. Egyptian rights activists on Friday accused Cairo prison guards of fatally injuring him in a torture case that they said shows continued rampant human rights abuse by security forces despite the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.

By Lauren Unger-Geoffroy

We asked Lauren Unger-Geoffroy, an Arabic-speaking American who lives in Cairo, to share her perspective of life in Egypt after the revolution. In this entry, she writes about two cases involving alleged official brutality and the deaths of prisoners.

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CAIRO—On Friday at the corner mosque, the imam was hoarse with emotion as he gave his sermon. Through a loudspeaker system, he shouted the story of Ibrahim [the Old Testament’s Abraham] and about sacrificing for freedom and faith. He went on for an hour, until his voice broke and his last recitations from the Quran were punctuated by breaks and what sounded like sobs. 

The imam’s passion was inspired by the fate of Essam Atta, who died Thursday at Qasr El-Eini hospital in Cairo after prison guards allegedly tortured him by sodomization. According to several media reports, an officer from Tora Prison took Atta to the hospital when it became evident he was dying. Some press accounts put his age at 23 and others said he was 24.

Malik Adly, a lawyer for the family, reported that after Atta was tortured, the prisoner phoned relatives to say that police had injected water into him through his mouth and anus. Atta’s brother told the media that he had seen the corpse at the hospital and it was leaking foamy water and bloody fluid from the mouth and nose and had contusions on the face.

“We accuse the officers of the Tora prison of being behind the victim’s death,” Adly said. Cairo’s Nadim Center for Victims of Torture also accused guards of killing Atta. The family is asking Egypt’s state prosecutor for a full investigation into the death.


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Some inmates claim to have witnessed the attack, saying guards stuck two hoses into the victim. According to cellmates, prison personnel assaulted Atta after catching him with a SIM card (a cellphone card) that his mother had smuggled in for him.

Activists carrying Atta’s body in an open coffin wrapped in the Egyptian flag marched to Tahrir Square on Friday, chanting slogans against the Ministry of Interior.

An Egyptian security official denied the allegations of official brutality, saying prison medics found that Atta had taken drugs and was suffering from exhaustion. When his condition worsened, he was taken to the hospital, the official said. Another presenter on national television said that sources reported he died from ingesting drugs.

The alleged torture occurred only one day after two policemen were given seven-year prison terms for a similar crime—the murder last year of Khaled Said, 28, in Alexandria—an incident that turned out to be a major catalyst for the national revolution that started in January.

Said was beaten to death in June 2010. Pictures of his bloodied face, broken jaw and bruised body were widely circulated, and activists later used a Facebook page called “We are all Khaled Said” to help organize the uprising against now-deposed President Hosni Mubarak. The page remains an influential rallying point for protests and revolutionary activity in Egypt.

At the sentencing of the policemen last Wednesday, enraged families of the two officers smashed wooden benches in the courtroom and tried to attack the dead man’s lawyers and relatives, one of the lawyers said.

The newest reported victim of police atrocity, Atta, was taken into custody Feb. 24 as he watched a street fight. He was arrested under an accusation of thuggery and eventually was tried by a military court on a charge of illegal occupation of an apartment. Atta was sentenced to two years in the maximum-security ward at Cairo’s Tora Prison, where a number of former figures in the Mubarak regime are being held.

After Thursday’s death, one police official reported that Atta had also been arrested earlier, in 2004 for drug dealing and in 2010 for illegal weapon possession. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because, he said, he was not authorized to address the media.

One cannot avoid seeing the similarities between the cases of Atta and Said. Authorities had portrayed Said, too, as a drug dealer and declared that he had choked to death on a packet of drugs he swallowed in trying to hide it from police. However, protesters who succeeded in having an independent forensic group explore Said’s remains said the examiners found that the packet had been forced into the mouth after death.

For many Egyptians, the prosecution of the two low-ranking policemen in Said’s death and their sentencing were a success and a rare satisfaction of justice. Despite the fact that many felt the punishment was not sufficient, there was a sense of victory against the endemic brutality of this police force. Even so, activists continue to call for a complete revision of the Interior Ministry, Egypt’s police and prison system. In addition, an end to military trials for civilians remains a central demand.

On a Facebook page protesting military trials Atta posted a message Oct. 7:

“I’m imprisoned because my family is poor. But I’m sure God will stand by me, as God is greater than all people,” he said 20 days before his death. Members of Atta’s family say that when he died they were preparing to appeal the verdict.

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LocalHero's avatar

By LocalHero, November 3, 2011 at 10:20 am Link to this comment

Certainly nobody can be surprised by this. The Egyptian uprising should never have allied themselves with the Egyptian military which has been trained for decades by the worst-of-the-worst, the US military. Of course, that’s why the US took a position of (limited) support for the protesters - they knew that it would deliver power right back into the hands of the US.

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By gerard, November 1, 2011 at 6:31 pm Link to this comment

That last comment of mine, read out of context, is intolerably flip.  I renounce it here and explain that at that moment I was thinking of Occupiers in New York just before the snow began to fall. The reference to “umbrellas” was a plea for both material and moral support from the other 99$ of us whom they represent and are trying to speak for.

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By gerard, November 1, 2011 at 9:58 am Link to this comment

Every human effort for good gets rained-on.  Bring your umbrella—and one for your neighbor if you have an extra.

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blogdog's avatar

By blogdog, November 1, 2011 at 9:00 am Link to this comment

RE: ...those in the world that helped them. - while helping themselves to
install more pliant puppets - Gaddafi defended Africa, championed African unity -
created African financial institutions to serve Africans, protect them from IMF /
World Bank hegemony

now Libya is ‘free’ to be plundered as it was under the former monarchy, with all
the help NATO could muster - 10,000 strike sorties - each delivering 6,000 to
60,000 pounds of ordinance - more than the Luftwaffe dropped on England -
civilian deaths estimated at between 70,000 and 100,000 with depleted uranium
effects to last for centuries

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Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, November 1, 2011 at 4:15 am Link to this comment

If dollars were sent sub rosa by “interested parties” to kindle or
foment the rebellions, so be it.  It is time the people of the world
awakened from their tombs of ignorance and tyranny whatever
form that may be and that there were those in the world that
helped them.

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drbhelthi's avatar

By drbhelthi, November 1, 2011 at 2:04 am Link to this comment

The „public media“ disinformation that has surrounded all such “Arab Spring” fantasy ideation
distracts from the core of what has gone on since 1947, led by personages in the U.S.A.  Former CIA assassin for GHWBushSr, Chip Tatum, reveals some of it in his chronicles.  A much better overview is provided by the videos of former CIA site chief, John Stockwell.  Former CIA agent Susan Lindauer whistle-blew the truth about the Boeing 747 over Lockerbie, that Muammar al Ghaddafi had nothing to do with it.  Yet, the GHWBushSr entourage scape-goated him, and ultimately had NATO destroy Libya and him.  Why?  Because he declined to be controlled by the GHWBushSr entourage, was demanding reparations for Libya´s payout for the Lockerbie incident, and actively supported the replacement of the dollar as “oil currency.”  Interesting, that the “rebel government” changed the debt-free, Libyan state bank into a Rothschild bank as one of their first official actions.    John Stockwell, click on number 8

Of course, it is easier for ignorant people to believe the overwhelming, Zionist-Rothschild media, than the factual truth, which is suppressed.  Shills of the Zionist entourage support what they think is their stake in the disinformation program that supports one Zionist government for the earth.  Dr. Carol Rosin, former associate of Dr. Werner von Braun, has re-started her campaign to reveal the WWII, Zionist-Hitler plan revealed to her by Dr. von Braun, with his dying request to spread the information to the world. 
Chalk up a few points for the honesty and courage of the ladies - - !

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Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, November 1, 2011 at 1:00 am Link to this comment

The brutality some men commit on others, on men and women
alike, and children defies all definitions of morality and sanity. 
Is it a permanent defect in the psyche of the human race?  Can
it be annihilated?  How? 

How can we be silent about such savagery?!

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blogdog's avatar

By blogdog, October 31, 2011 at 5:22 pm Link to this comment

not intending to rain on the parade, but…

online review:

the book

Arabesque American
by Ahmed Bensaada
(Michel Brule May 2011)


Arabesque Americaine leaves absolutely no doubt that the “Arab Spring” — like the earlier “color revolutions” in eastern Europe — were almost certainly destabilization/regime change operations, funded and orchestrated by the CIA, State Department, historic CIA- funded foundations —  and last, but not least, Google.

Bensaada’s 120-page book provides a carefully researched and referenced account of each of the foundations that are “exporting democracy” to MENA (the Middle East and North Africa ), along with an exact accounting of the millions of dollars given to each country in 2009 and the specific groups the funds went to.

My favorite chapter was the one describing the role these foundations, the State Department, and Google have played in training young MENA activists in the use of social media (e.g. Facebook and Twitter). I was particularly interested in the free access and training they provide international youth activists on TOR, a special software designed to evade government surveillance (which, under the Patriot Act, is illegal in the US ).

Bensaada, who was born and received his early education in Algeria, devotes special attention to the Egypt revolution, emphasizing the role Google played via their star employee Wael Ghonem.

The following is a brief outline of the topics covered:

Chapter 1 — concerns the secret American funding and orchestration of the so-called “color revolutions” in Eastern Europe , with particular focus on Serbia (2000), Georgia (2003), Ukraine (2004) and Kirghizistan(2005). In each case, pro-Soviet governments were overthrown by mobilizing disaffected, pro-Western young people — financed by the CIA,  State Department, and Pentagon linked “democracy manipulating” foundations. The latter include National Endowment for Democracy (NED), National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), Freedom House (FH), the Albert Einstein Institute, the Center for Non Violent Action and Strategies (CANVAS), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) — and George Soros’ Open Society Institute (OSI).

Chapter 2 — contains a detailed discussion of the above think tanks and foundations, which includes a description of the their government funding, as well as the subversive activities (espionage, election rigging, an popular destablization activities) they promote in countries like Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba and Iran that oppose America’s pro-corporate agenda.

Chapter 3 — discusses the promotion, by the State Department and these think tanks and foundations, of new technologies in these destabilization campaigns. I was fascinated by Bensaada’s description of Guide Star’s TOR Project, which permits anonymous navigation of the Internet. According to their own website, TOR is funded by Google, the US Naval Research Lab, and Human Rights Watch (HRW). In 2004 Paul Treanor documented that HRW is a joint project of Soros’ Open Society Institute and the State Department   ( US Wikileaks spokesperson Jacob Appelbaum, the main TOR spokesperson, travels all over the world training activists in the use of TOR (Wikileaks uses TOR on their servers).


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By gerard, October 31, 2011 at 4:53 pm Link to this comment

Think what the ordinary people of Egypt did to lift their history out of the muck of oppression—and in a short period of time. Without the violence, too.
Quite marvelous, when you stop to think about it. Not to mention inspiring similar protests in a number of other countries, including the U.S. of A.
I doubt if they regret it, even though there’s still a long way to go. They’ve got their self-respect, and the future will be more in their hands than it was before.

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By mazarali, October 31, 2011 at 1:44 pm Link to this comment

According to the Project on Student Debt, the average arrears for graduating U.S. students is $24,000, but that figure is low for many who are entering a state of sustained debt peonage during the wonder years of young adulthood. jogos de carros

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blogdog's avatar

By blogdog, October 30, 2011 at 7:25 pm Link to this comment

the sad thing is that all the sacrifices resulted in a military coup d’etat - Libya is
fast becoming worse and will be by 1000 times - Jabril’s NATO propaganda lies
continue relentlessly, proposing a peaceful future, while leaving the al qaeda
brigades to murder, torture and loot at will - any wonder partisans are hiding their
weapons - if families are to face torture and death at the hands of a cut throat
‘rebel’ brigade, why not defend oneself and go down fighting - the partisans will
not give in - they may lie low for a while - but NATO’s vicious proxies are
genuinely scared and with good reason

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By balkas, October 30, 2011 at 3:59 pm Link to this comment

i have ‘predicted’ that the protest in egypt wld not change the basics in
it needs to get highly political also to affect the basic structure of
governance there and thus to take full control of the army [or high
echelons], spies, and police.

that’s all there is to it: obtain power and power is in military and police
hands and not in politicians’.

and that can be achieved only by econo-politico-military-educational
power. in other words, power has to meet power.

there is no quick and easy fixes. one must engage in political labors;
suffering death threats, death, penury, injury, insults, oppression,
incarceration, beatings, torture., etc., in order to build a viable party that
cld take decades or even centuries.

this analyses is valid also for u.s protesters. hey, folks, history is not a
mystory regarding the lessons of it. it’s crystal clear. tnx

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