Egypt jails two policemen for death of protest symbol

Jail sentences may quell anger against police abuse

CAIRO - An Egyptian court on Wednesday sentenced two policemen to seven years after convicting them for their role in the 2010 death of Khaled Said who became a symbol of the fight against police torture.
"The Alexandria Criminal Court has sentenced two policemen from the Sidi Gaber police station to seven years in jail with hard labour in the case of Khaled Said's death," the official MENA news agency reported.
In June last year, the two policemen, Mahmud Salah Mahmud and Awad Ismail Suleiman, dragged Said out of an Internet cafe and severely beat him on a busy street in Alexandria.
Said's death sparked mass protests around the country and a Facebook page dedicated to him -- "We are all Khaled Said" -- helped launch the uprising that toppled veteran president Hosni Mubarak in February.
A government report initially said that Said had died after choking on drugs, but in September a panel said that was not the case.
Although pictures of Said's corpse showed a crushed face missing the lower lip, the government's chief coroner at the time said he died after ingesting a bag of marijuana.
But the medical panel said in its report that Said died of asphyxiation after he was beaten, and a bag had been placed in his mouth after he fell unconscious.
Said's case dominated the headlines for weeks and sparked nationwide outrage.
The local prosecutor had closed the investigation and ordered Said’s burial, but escalating public protests prompted a new investigation into the case and its referral to a court.
Anger against routine police abuse and torture were a driving force behind the massive popular protests that ousted Mubarak.
The former president and his hated interior minister Habib al-Adly are on trial for the killing of protesters during the uprising.
Last month, London-based human rights group Amnesty International said that detainees were "still being subjected to torture and other ill-treatment" after a video circulating online showed officers assaulting two detainees.
The footage posted on social networking websites shows members of the army and security forces slapping and tasering two handcuffed detainees.