CAIRO (AFP) – An Egyptian whose abuse by police led to two officers being jailed will be tried over a street brawl under a controversial law the government said would be limited to drugs and terrorism, a judicial source said on Wednesday.
The case, which has brought charges of politicisation, will be the first to be referred to a security court since parliament extended in May a decades-old emergency law but limited it to the two types of crime.
A judicial source said Emad El-Kebir, a minibus driver whom policemen sodomised with a stick in 2007 while filming the act on a mobile phone, was charged with weapons possession and terrorising passersby after a brawl.
The brawl, in which guns and knives were allegedly used, took place in a poor Cairo neighbourhood after Kebir and another minibus driver argued over passengers.
His brother, cousin and two other men will also face trial by the emergency tribunal, which allows no right of appeal.
The government promised that the emergency law, which allows indefinite detentions, would only used in terrorism and narcotic cases and said it would free those detained under the law for other reasons.
Cabinet spokesman Magdy Rady told AFP the referral of Kebir’s case to the emergency court did not contradict the government’s pledge.
“We really did limit it, and there has been no abuse of the law,” Rady said.
“The possession and use of weapons and live ammunition to terrorise people is a terrorist act,” he said. “The act does not have to be taken by a group.”
Kebir’s lawyer, Nasir Amin, said his client’s case was political, saying it was in reaction to the embarrassment caused by the abuse case.
“There are 5,000 such cases tried in normal courts across Egypt every month. This is politicised,” he said. “This is a message from the government and the interior ministry, that they will get their revenge sooner or later.”
The two policemen who sodomised him were sentenced to three years in jail.
Rights groups allege the referral could have been politically motivated and that it is a stretch to define a brawl or gun fight as terrorism.
“This is a case that could be handled in a criminal court. The disproportionate nature of the case indicates that this may be a political referral,” said Heba Morayef, a Cairo-based researcher for Human Rights Watch.
Egypt, which has seen deadly militant attacks over the past four decades, says it will adopt a broad terrorism law to replace the much criticised emergency law.
Its law currently defines terrorism as an armed act aimed at harming the security and safety of society, or impeding the government in carrying out its work — a definition rights groups say is too vague.
The footage of Kebir being abused at a police station highlighted police abuse in Egypt, where rights groups say torture is routine.
Two other policeman are currently on trial in the port city of Alexandria after a man died in their custody. Pictures of Khaled Said’s badly mangled corpse led to an international outcry.