Activists claim dead Egyptian prisoner was tortured

Story highlights

  • Young Egyptian died in prison
  • Groups, relatives allege he was tortured to death
  • Government said he took drugs, was not tortured
Hundreds of demonstrators demanded the downfall of Egypt's top military authority Friday after a funeral for a young Egyptian man who died in custody.
Human rights groups and relatives allege Essam Atta, 23, was tortured to death by prison guards in Egypt's Tora prison, Noor Ayman Nour, a human rights activist, told CNN.
"His mother smuggled him a SIM card into prison," said Dr. Aida Seif El Dawla, co-founder of the El Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture. "Fellow inmates told the family they believe this caused a conflict between him and one of the prison guards who later accused him of smuggling drugs. Fellow prisoners told the family he was then beaten, tortured, and pipes were pushed through his mouth and anus, killing him."
Atta's mother, Naema, screamed and wailed hysterically at his funeral. "They even beat him in front of me once in prison," she told a CNN crew before she was rushed toward the coffin.
The Egyptian Interior Ministry denied the torture allegations.
"Essam Attaa died from poisoning due to drugs he took during a (prison) visit. He was not tortured. No policeman would dare torture a man at these times," ministry spokesman Alaa Mahmoud told CNN.
"A prosecutor inspected the body of Essam and found no signs of physical torture," said Adel Saeed, official spokesman for the general prosecutor. "We ordered an autopsy to see if there are signs of internal damage to the body that may indicate otherwise."
"Essam was sentenced to two years in Tora Prison and his inmates confirmed that he was addicted to sedative pills," Saeed said.
In a video statement, the prisoner's family said Essam was detained in February when he and others watching a fight were swept up by police.
A year ago, the gruesome death of 28-year old Khaled Said allegedly at the hands of Egyptian police stirred an international outcry and prompted the creation of the "We are All Khaled Said" Facebook page by Google executive Wael Ghonim.
The page and Ghonimc are credited, among others, with organizing and inspiring the Egyptian revolution that led to the ouster of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in February.
"This is Khaled Said number two. We do not even have a just and impartial system for the autopsy of victims. The family has the right to know what happened to their son. I appeal for a transparent and professional autopsy to be conducted," El Dawla said.