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The Murder of Khaled Said

“In many ways, the case of Khaled Said is tragically symbolic of everything that is wrong with the state of emergency under which Egyptians have been living for almost three decades. In such an arbitrary and opaque system, torture and ill-treatment are a natural byproduct.  And in fact, torture in police custody has been systematic and well documented since the 1990s. Khaled Said’s case is unusual only because his murder was witnessed by so many, captured on film, and distributed to thousands via Facebook.”

Soha Abdelaty, Foreign Policy

On June 6, 2010 businessman and blogger Khaled Said was dragged from a cybercafe, beaten, and thrown into the back of a police car. A few days later his broken body was released to his parents.

Although multiple witnesses have testified that they saw him beaten to death as police repeatedly slammed his head into walls and steps of a building, and his body showed massive damage including his fractured skull, dislocated jaw, and mangled face, the official autopsy report was that he had choked to death swallowing a packet of drugs he was trying to conceal from police. Later evidence suggested that Said may have caught a police drug deal or extortion case on video and was uploading it to his blog when he was arrested.

News of Said’s death spread rapidly across the Arabic cyberrealm (see for example here), and spread into national and international media. Soon huge protests of young, Internet-savvy students took place in Cairo and Alexandria. Security forces arrested more than thirty protesters.

One of the rallies to protest against police abuses, held June 25th, was led by Mohammed El Baradei, who  paid a visit to Said’s family to offer condolences.

Khaled Said’s murder became a symbol to many Egyptians of the power of the police to brutalize citizens with impunity. The claim that he was a drug dealer symbolized the hollowness of the regime’s promise in 2010 to only use emergency law powers against drug dealers and terrorism, since many Egyptians believe the police can manufacture “evidence” that anyone has committed such a crime.

It is no coincidence that one of the social media sites helping organize the Jan. 25 protests in Tahrir Square is a Facebook page called “We Are All Khaled Said.”

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