CAIRO - Crowds of Egyptians dressed in black held demonstrations Monday to honor a young man from Alexandria beaten to death a year ago in a savage attack blamed on police that helped inspire the uprising that brought down Egypt’s president.
Photographs of Khaled Said’s badly disfigured and bloodied face were posted on the Internet and became an instant rallying point for campaigners trying to bring attention to rampant police brutality under the regime of Hosni Mubarak.
A Facebook page in his honor called “We are all Khaled Said” was used months later to call for the protests that toppled Mubarak on Feb. 11.
On Monday’s anniversary of his death, crowds held protests in Cairo and Alexandria to remember him and draw attention to continued abuses by Egyptian police.
In Cairo, about 300 activists demonstrated in front of the Interior Ministry, spray-painting pictures of Said’s face onto a wall of the building and around its entrance. They raised banners reading “Enough police abuse” and calling for the trial of those who killed protesters in Egypt’s uprising.
Some chanted, “Is Mubarak still ruling or what?” and “We are all Khaled Said.”
Around 100 others in black help pictures of Said on one of the main bridges across the Nile, passing out leaflets calling for a large protest Monday against police abuse.
A year later, Said’s death continues to stir anger, especially since the policemen accused of killing him are still on trial. The court is set to issue its verdict at the end of this month.
The trial of police agents Mahmoud Salah and Awad Ismail Suleiman was postponed repeatedly after Mubarak’s ouster because court officials said it would be difficult to secure the proceedings.
The circumstances of Said’s slaying - witnesses say two plainclothes officers dragged him from an Internet cafe and beat him to death on the street - resonated with many young Egyptians.
The reason he was confronted by police has never been fully explained.
Security forces and forensics reports initially maintained Said suffocated by swallowing a packet of drugs when he was approached - a claim met with derision after the photos were circulated showing his body covered with bruises, his teeth broken and jaw smashed.
After a public outcry, prosecutors charged Salah and Suleiman with illegal arrest and harsh treatment, falling short of his family’s demands for a murder charge.
Said’s family visited his grave in an Alexandria cemetery on Monday. His mother, Laila Marzouq, wearing a pendant around her neck with a photo of her son, sat beside the tombstone.
In front of Said’s house in Alexandria, his family and hundreds of protesters in black held a silent demonstration.
“As long as there is no prosecution of those who practiced torture there will be always torture,” said his sister, Zuhra. “As long as there is no punishment, no justice, I can’t forgive.”
Adding to Egyptians’ frustration is the continuation of police abuse even after Egypt’s most feared security apparatus, State Security, was dissolved after Mubarak’s ouster.
Rights activists have raised claims that several people have been killed by police in recent weeks. In one case, a bus driver is believed to have been beaten to death by police in downtown Cairo.
Egypt’s interim military rulers are also accused of abusing protesters detained during rallies calling for a faster transition to democracy and quick prosecution of Mubarak and other regime officials.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Council of The Armed Forces announced Monday that in mid-June it will end the overnight curfew that has been in place in many parts of Egypt since the uprising.