ALEXANDRIA, Egypt — The victim’s lawyers in a trial of two Egyptian policemen involved in the death of a young man demanded yesterday that the defendants face torture charges in a case that has focused national attention on police brutality in Egypt.
Khaled Said died June 6, and witnesses say the two policemen dragged him out of an Internet cafe in the northern port city of Alexandria and beat him to death. Two state autopsies, however, insisted Said died of suffocation after swallowing a packet of drugs.
After a public outcry, prosecutors charged Mahmoud Salah and Awad Ismail Suleiman, plainclothes officers, with illegal arrest and harsh treatment, falling far short of demands by the victim’s family for a murder charge.
“There is a big difference between the two,’’ said Hafez Abu Saada, one of the lawyers for the victims, referring to a torture charge rather than just one for harsh treatment. “Torture leading to death has a death sentence.’’
In Egyptian criminal courts, victims’ lawyers have a role in the trial alongside that of the prosecutor in making the case to the judges. Said’s lawyers yesterday asked to present witnesses, prompting the judge to adjourn the trial until Sept. 25.
The two defendants appeared in court wearing white prison uniforms and stood in the defendants’ cage.
As the trial started, hundreds of riot police cordoned off the court building while dozens of human rights activists protested outside, waving pictures of Said.