Egyptians honor activist whose death sparked revolt

Reuters News
|
Posted: Jun 06, 2011 4:14 PM
Egyptians honor activist whose death sparked revolt

By Dina Zayed

CAIRO (Reuters) - Hundreds of Egyptians took to the streets on Monday and stood in silence in memory of activist Khaled Said, beaten to death outside an Internet cafe exactly a year ago by two police officers in the coastal city Alexandria.

Pictures of the 28-year-old's battered face and body quickly spread via the Internet, sparking public anger in Egyptian cities that grew into the revolt that eventually toppled President Hosni Mubarak on February 11.

Mostly young Egyptians, draped with national flags, some clutching copies of the Koran, others holding the Christian cross, paid tribute to the man who became a symbol of their uprising and called for justice for victims of police brutality.

"Khaled Said died but brought the voice of justice to life," said Soha Fathy of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies. "But a year has passed and his rights have not been returned."

Said posted a video that he said showed two policemen sharing the spoils of a drug bust. Witnesses say the policemen dragged Said out of an Internet cafe and beat him to death. Authorities said Said choked on illegal drugs he had swallowed.

Two policemen were put on trial last year, and a verdict is expected later this month.

"I hear the voice of a martyr calling, asking 'where are my rights and where are the rights of my nation,'" hundreds chanted outside Said's home in Alexandria, denouncing the slow progress of the investigation and trial.

"We feel great grief on this day because Khaled is not with us but it is also mixed with pride, because it was Khaled who sparked the revolution," said Zohra Said, Khaled's sister. "But we are still waiting for justice."

REJECTING TORTURE

Hundreds gathered outside the interior ministry in Cairo, a scene impossible to imagine before the uprising when the building was cordoned off and difficult even to walk past, chanting "do not worry Khaled, we have avenged your death."

"I'm here because this is the least I can do. It is not acceptable for people to die at the hands of security officers," Sara Hussein said, standing outside the building while activists climbed on walls to draw graffiti images of Said.

"We are reminding authorities that we will not stand for torture and brutality," Hussein said. "It isn't just about respecting his memory. We are sending the message to those who may think we will let the system return to what it was."

Protesters voiced concern that officials responsible for opening fire at protesters have not yet been held to account. At least 846 people died in the uprising and more than 6,000 were injured.

"We are calling not just for a faster trial of those officers responsible for the death of Said and others," but also a complete restructuring of the role of the police, said potential presidential candidate Ayman Nour said.

Last year, at the first rally after Said's death, activists stood with their back to the land and looked out to sea, often having to move because of harassment by security men.

On Monday, hundreds stood on Cairo's Qasr El Nile Bridge and hundreds more stood on the corniche in Alexandria, facing busy streets with pictures of Said in their hands.

"Last year, I stood with my back to the land because it was a message to the regime that we had lost hope. Today, I'm looking in, because I have faith and a will to build a new Egypt," activist Mohamed Abdel Kareem said.

(Additional reporting by Abdel Rahman Youssef in Alexandria and Amr Abdullah; Writing by Dina Zayed, editing by Tim Pearce)