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Egyptian police brutality case postponed two months

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Khaled Said was fatally beaten in Alexandria Internet cafe
  • Authorities say man was wanted for weapons possession
  • Supporters say he was trying to expose official corruption
  • The case has become a lightning rod for activists

(CNN) -- The Egyptian court hearing the case of a deadly police assault has adjourned for two months, state media reported.

On the first day of the hearing, the Alexandria Criminal Court decided to delay until September 25 the case of two police officers charged in the assault on Khaled Said.

Witnesses said two plainclothes officers beat Said and dragged him out of an Alexandria Internet cafe, where he died. Egyptian authorities previously said that Said died from asphyxiation after he swallowed a packet of drugs.

Police say that he was wanted for theft and weapons possession and that he resisted arrest. Supporters say he was targeted for trying to expose official corruption.

The prosecution has said it wants the charges changed from use of excessive force and unlawful arrest to murder. Those charged will remain in custody.

Said's family was in the courtroom for the first day of the trial of officers Awad Ismail Soliman and Mahmoud Salah Amin.

Dr. Ali Qasim, Said's uncle and an Alexandria-based dentist, said the family members of the two defendants were allowed to enter the courtroom "in large numbers."

He said that only Said's immediate family -- including he; his sister, Said's mother; and Said's two sibilings -- were allowed entry.

He confirmed that protesters outside the courtroom offered support for Said and noted that prosecution lawyers are working pro bono on his nephew's case.

"We are very satisfied with the judge and the prosecution. I know I am supposed to be unhappy today. I am supposed to be sad. But the Egyptian people are behind me. The lawyers support me. So, whatever the outcome, I will be satisfied," the uncle said.

The June 6 death has since become a lightning rod for human rights activists. Recently, thousands of people took to the streets of Alexandria to bring attention to police brutality. Some carried posters that said: "Killed by barbarians."

Mohammed ElBaradei, the former chief of the U.N. nuclear agency and now an Egyptian reformist figure, visited Said's family during a recent demonstration to offer his condolences. He said that such a beating is a practice out of the Middle Ages.

"I think the message should be clear," said ElBaradei, making his most high-profile appearance since leaving the International Atomic Energy Agency. "This should be the last time we witness torture in Egypt."