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Egyptian policeman imprisoned in torture case

| Tuesday, April 16, 2013, 9:03 p.m.

CAIRO — An Egyptian court sentenced a police officer to 15 years in prison on Tuesday for torturing an ultraconservative Muslim to death, a rare lengthy prison term for a policeman convicted of abuse.

The Criminal Court in Alexandria found Osama el-Kounayassi guilty of using torture to extract confessions from el-Sayed Belal, a member of the Salafi trend in the port city whom police accused of involvement in a suicide bombing at a Coptic Christian church over two years ago.

He is the second officer in the same case to receive a 15-year sentence. El-Kounayassi had previously been convicted in absentia, but then won a retrial.

Torture was a key grievance in the popular revolt that ousted Egypt's longtime authoritarian President Hosni Mubarak. But even after the uprising, most torture cases end up with the police either being acquitted or receiving light sentences. The case of Belal, a bearded young man, was one of two extreme cases of brutality that galvanized public anger shortly before the revolution.

The first one was the death of Khaled Said, also from Alexandria, who was beaten to death by two police officers in June 2010.

His name became a rallying call for the uprising. “We are all Khaled Said” was the name of the Facebook group that helped organize the early protests.

The brutal death of Said, a 28-year-old middle class small businessman, particularly alarmed many Egyptians who viewed torture victims as political activists or people with a criminal background.

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