Egypt to probe 3 officers in Islamist torture death

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 09, 2011 4:34 PM
Egypt to probe 3 officers in Islamist torture death

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt has ordered the detention and questioning of three police officers in the case of a man who relatives say was tortured to death by authorities, state news agency MENA reported Saturday, citing Alexandria's public prosecution.

Also Saturday, Prime Minister Essam Sharaf said in an address on state television that he ordered the interior minister to issue a decree ending the service of ministry officials and police officers accused in cases involving the killing of protesters.

Mohamed Sayyid Bilal, 32, was arrested in January after a so far unidentified bomber killed 23 people on January 1 at a church in Alexandria. Bilal's body was turned over to relatives a day later and bore signs of torture and burns, his family said.

MENA said initial investigations showed that Bilal, who was one of many Salafists -- followers of strict Sunni Muslim teachings -- rounded up along with others as suspects in the bombing, had no link to the attack on the church.

Egyptians have accused the government of ousted President Hosni Mubarak of failing to bring to justice those responsible for police brutality. The interim government has been under pressure to weed out corruption and hold to account those responsible for abuses.

Mubarak is due to stand trial on August 3 for the killing of protesters on charges that could carry the death penalty. An emergency law in place since 1981 allows indefinite detention without charge and was used under Mubarak to crush dissent.

Sharaf said he also urged the public prosecutor to put together a team to speed up investigations into cases about the killing of protesters, and that the prosecutor had decided to appeal all acquittals that had been issued in such cases.

A U.N. human rights team in June urged Egypt's interim military authorities to move quickly to lift the long-standing state of emergency and to declare that torture would no longer be tolerated.

(Reporting by Shaimaa Fayed; Editing by Peter Cooney)