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Published June 30, 2011, 08:05 AM

Review ordered in death that sparked Egypt revolt

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt (AP) — An Egyptian court on Thursday ordered an independent review of disputed forensic evidence used in the defense of two policemen accused of beating a young businessman whose death helped trigger Egypt's uprising.

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt (AP) — An Egyptian court on Thursday ordered an independent review of disputed forensic evidence used in the defense of two policemen accused of beating a young businessman whose death helped trigger Egypt's uprising.

The state forensic report concluded that Khaled Said died as a result of swallowing a packet of drugs. The finding has been widely ridiculed because photos of Said's battered body showed his face bloodied and his jaw shattered.

Said's death in June of last year in Alexandria captured the attention of millions in Egypt and helped spark the 18-day uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak in February. Witnesses say police agents dragged him from an Internet cafe after an argument and savagely beat him on the sidewalk outside.

His death became an immediate rallying point for activists campaigning against widespread police brutality and other human rights abuses under former President Hosni Mubarak.

Months later, a Facebook page created in his memory was used to put out a call for the Jan. 25 protests that grew into the 18-day uprising that would topple Mubarak.

The court had been expected to deliver a verdict Thursday, but instead ordered the review of evidence. The trial will resume on Sept. 24.

Said's family welcomed the review, which raised the possibility that the more serious charge of manslaughter could be added to the indictment against the policemen, currently charged with illegal arrest and the use of excessive force.

"We want them executed," said Zahra, Said's sister, who attended Thursday's hearing.

The proceedings were held amid tight security provided by army troops backed by armored fighting vehicles.

The court said a committee of forensic experts from three Egyptian universities would review the report on the cause of Said's death prepared by the state's chief coroner.

Al-Bakry al-Afify, one of six defense lawyers, said he welcomed the decision.

"It is not a problem of delayed justice," he said. "It makes no difference how long the trial lasts. The important thing is to get a satisfactory verdict."

A crowd of some 200 people chanted slogans against Egypt's military rulers outside the courthouse, protesting the perceived slow pace of the prosecution of Mubarak and stalwarts of his regime. Those complaints were also at the root of two days of rioting in Cairo this week that left more than 1,000 people wounded.

"Down with the rule of the soldiers," chanted the crowd.

The military took control of the country from Mubarak, when he stepped down on Feb. 11 and is overseeing a return to civilian rule and a hoped-for transition to democracy.

"(Said's) case highlights the widely shared belief that the Egyptian authorities are still not doing enough to deliver justice — not only for Khaled Said but for all those unlawfully killed and injured by the security forces during mass protests earlier this year," Malcolm Smart, director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Program, said in a statement before Thursday's verdict.

"This belief is exacerbated by the slowness with which the authorities are handling trials of police officers accused of killing protesters during the uprising, when more than 800 died, and the fact that many of those facing trial have not been suspended from active duty and remain in positions where they can intimidate witnesses and subvert justice," he said.

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