Egyptian family threatened by police for complaining of torture

An Egyptian woman, who went to file a complaint at a police station on 19 January, has since been subjected to torture, ill-treatment and death threats against her and her family by members of the local police force.

Mona Said Thabet went to a police station north of Cairo after she was assaulted by two men at her sister’s home. The men were reported to have been police informers.

Since then Mona Said Thabet, her husband Yasser Naguib Mahran and their three children have been the targets of a campaign of harassment and intimidation to force her to withdraw torture complaints she made.

When she made her complaint at Shobra al-Khayma police station No. II, Mona Said Thabat was spat on, slapped on the face and had a cigarette put out on her cheek by the head of the police station.

She was then beaten, insulted, had her head completely shaved and threatened with rape in order to force her to withdraw an earlier complaint she had filed against the torture and ill-treatment of her husband in September 2008.

“Beatings left Mona Said Thabet bruised and injured. Shaving her hair completely was meant to humiliate her and break her spirit”, said Amnesty International.

When Amnesty International delegates met with Mona Said Thabet on 14 February, she repeated several times “how can I be a woman without my hair?” and cried as she showed them a picture of her with long hair.

Two days after the reported torture, Mona Said Thabet filed a complaint with the public prosecutor’s office in Shobra al-Khayma with the assistance of lawyers from the Association for Human Rights and Legal Aid (AHRLA), an Egyptian human rights organization.

AHRLA has been providing legal advice to victims of human rights violations, including by representing them before Egyptian courts. As a result, an investigation into the attack on her was opened and she was referred for examination by a forensic doctor.

In telephone calls on 1 and 2 February, Mona Said Thabet was threatened with further torture, rape, the killing of her husband and the kidnapping of her children if she did not withdraw her complaint to the public prosecutor.

Despite this, she once again lodged a complaint about the threats with the office of the public prosecutor on 4 February. As a result the order was made for the incident to be investigated. The head of Shobra al-Khayma police station No. II was reported to have been summoned by the office of the public prosecutor for questioning. He failed to appear and a few days after Mona Said Thabet’s complaint, police officers visited her home and made death threats against her.

“We welcome the decision of the Public Prosecutor to open an investigation into Mona Said Thabet’s allegations of torture and her referral for forensic medical examination to ascertain possible traces of torture,” said Amnesty International. “However, no protection has been provided to her or to her family against reprisals by the police officers she complained about and who remain in their functions during the investigation”.

Police officers in a micro-bus came to her house at around 6pm on 13 February. They beat and slapped her in the street in front of her house and tore off her clothes. Mona Said Thabet reported that police opened fire at her husband, who fled the scene. She said she was also attacked with a sharp object in her back, which caused cuts that required 23 stitches.

“Because Mona Said Thabet dared to complain about her torture and that of her husband, she now lives in fear and anxiety, as the police officers who are said to have tortured and abused both of them not only remain in function but continue to threaten her with further torture, death and the death of her family members.”

When Amnesty International delegates met her, she was fearful of returning to her home. She had injuries to her thighs and bruises on her nose and eyes. She also had bandages around her foot and was limping. She complained to the public prosecutor’s office again on 15 February and was examined by a forensic doctor.

“Such abuses happen when police officers are confident that they enjoy total impunity. Torture is rampant in Egypt and by investigating this case and prosecuting anyone found responsible the Egyptian authorities will signal their will to eradicate torture and that abuses of citizens will not be tolerated”

The ordeal of Mona Said Thabet and her family started as her husband, Yasser Naguib Mahran, is said to have refused to act as a police informer. He was detained many times for several days at Shobra al-Khayma police station No.II, In September 2008 he was held in incommunicado for about a week, during which he was tortured and had cuts in the cheeks and behind his ears. Whilst on the floor, he was reportedly kicked in the mouth and lost his front teeth.

When he returned home on 19 September 2008, Mona Said Thabet went and filed a complaint about his torture at the Ministry of Interior headquarters in Banha (complaint No. 55 of 19 September 2008).

The Egyptian authorities declare that those who commit torture are brought before justice. Despite this, Amnesty International was unable to obtain statistics on the number of torture complaints investigated in the recent years, nor the number of police officers who were tried and convicted for committing acts of torture.