Policemen accused of beating man to death

TWO plainclothes Egyptian police officers were charged yesterday with illegal arrest and brutality over the death of a businessman in Alexandria, in a case that has drawn attention from governments and human rights activists.

Khaled Said, 28, died on 6 June. Witnesses said the two officers dragged Mr Said out of a caf and beat him to death. However, state post-mortem examinations determined that he died of suffocation from swallowing a packet of drugs. These results were met with derision after photos of Mr Said's body circulated showing him covered with bruises, his teeth broken and jaw smashed.

The charges brought yesterday marked the first government acknowledgment of possible wrongdoing on the part of its police in the case.

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The killing became a rallying point for government critics, who denounced it as an example of rampant police abuses during president Hosni Mubarak's rule. The case led to street protests in Cairo and Alexandria. Rights groups including Amnesty International called for a transparent investigation.

Activists said that the brutal killing was retaliation for Mr Said's embarrassing the police officers in an internet posting.

The charge sheet filed by the Alexandria prosecutor accused the two officers, Warrant Officer Mahmoud Salah and Sergeant Awad Ismail Suleiman, of "illegal arrest, using physical torture and brutality".

Even so, the government has rejected a statement by European Union ambassadors in Cairo that noted "discrepancies" between the autopsy reports and witness accounts.

A government spokesman said the statement "constitutes an unacceptable interference by foreign embassies in Egypt's internal affairs".