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Cablegate: Police Brutality Update: Lawyers Allege Severe

DE RUEHEG #2064/01 3021709
R 291709Z OCT 09

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 002064



E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/29/2029

REF: A. CAIRO 1182
B. CAIRO 451
C. 08 CAIRO 2430

Classified By: Economic-Political Minister-Counselor
Donald A. Blome for reason 1.4 (d).

1. KEY POINTS -- (S) Credible human rights lawyers representing members of the Hizballah cell detained since late 2008 believe the GOE tortured the suspects with electric shocks and sleep deprivation to reduce them to a "zombie state." -- (S) The lawyers believe the GOE used the same torture on a separate group charged with aiding Hamas. They commented that this torture is more severe than what they normally see. -- (C) A human rights lawyer is working to investigate the alleged death by torture of the Hamas spokesman's brother in an Egyptian jail although key forensic evidence is in Gaza. -- (C) The GOE closed its investigation into the early 2009 police torture of a Cairo woman by burning, cutting and beating that Amnesty International had covered.

2. (S) Comment: The human rights lawyers alleging severe torture of the international cells are from xxxxxxxxxxxx. In addition to this new information on the international cells, this message provides updates on police brutality cases we last reported on in June (ref A). Septel will provide an analysis of current police brutality in Egypt. End comment.

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3. (S) Hizballah Cell: xxxxxxxxxxxx The lawyers told us in mid-October that they have compiled accounts from several defendants of GOE torture by electric shocks, sleep deprivation, and stripping them naked for extended periods. The lawyers believe the accounts to be credible, and said the defendants show psychological signs of torture: "They walk around like zombies, have no sense of time and have difficulty communicating with us." (Note: According to press reports, the cell contains 18 Egyptians, 2 Lebanese, 5 Palestinians and one Sudanese. End note.)

4. (S) Hizballah Cell (continued): xxxxxxxxxxxx asserted that "this kind of torture" is different from what xxxxxxxxxxxx normally sees, and speculated that a special branch of Interior Ministry State Security (SSIS) could be directing the torture. The lawyer explained that SSIS selectively uses electric shocks against members of the Muslim Brotherhood, but that consistent shocks and sleep deprivation of the kind he believes the GOE is using in this case are rare.

5. (S) Zeitoun Cell: xxxxxxxxxxxx lawyers are representing 8 members of a group of 25 Egyptians and one Palestinian arrested in July on charges of weapons smuggling to Gaza, building drones to assist Hamas, and assisting in the February 22 Khan Al-Khalili market bombing (ref B), among other charges. They are also accused of killing a Coptic jeweler in the Zeitoun neighborhood of Cairo in May 2008 to finance their crimes. The GOE is conducting an investigation. The lawyers said that some cell members complained of the same kinds of torture alleged by those in the Hizballah cell. They said others "were afraid to say they were tortured." The lawyers said that these detainees showed signs of torture similar to the Hizballah cell, and also "are like zombies." In July xxxxxxxxxxxx told us that one of his clients reported torture by electric shocks and sleep deprivation.

6. (C) Brother of Hamas Spokesman: On October 14, the Egyptian press carried Hamas' public accusations that the GOE tortured Youssef Al-Zohiry to death in Borg Al-Arab prison in Alexandria. xxxxxxxxxxxx confirmed to us October 18 that Al-Zohiry died in prison. xxxxxxxxxxxx said he is trying to send an xxxxxxxxxxxx fact-finding team to the prison to inspect the conditions, per previous agreement with the GOE, and the team will ask inmates and prison employees about Al-Zohiry's CAIRO 00002064 002 OF 002 death. Zarea said that Hamas conducted a forensic autopsy on the body in Gaza, so it will not be possible for Egyptian lawyers to access this key evidence to bring a case against the GOE. In any event, xxxxxxxxxxxx assessed that because of political sensitivities, the GOE would never allow Egyptian lawyers to file a case.

7. (C) xxxxxxxxxxxx In October 2008, police killed this 32-year old pregnant woman in the village of Samalut (150 miles south of Cairo) after forcibly entering her home to arrest her brother. In late April 2009, a court convicted a police officer for the killing, and sentenced him to one-year in prison (ref A). Lawyers xxxxxxxxxxxx told us October 19 that they have filed an appeal to the Court of Cassation (Egypt's highest appeals court) to re-try the case and impose a tougher sentence.

8. (C) Mona Thabet: Credible human rights contacts have told us that police tortured Thabet in early 2009 in Cairo by cutting, burning and beating her after she filed a complaint alleging police tortured her husband. xxxxxxxxxxxx told us October 26 that police closed the investigation after they determined that forensic evidence of Thabet's injuries was "inconclusive." xxxxxxxxxxxx has petitioned the Public Prosecutor to re-open the investigation.

9. (C) Aswan Killings: In November 2008, police in the Upper Egyptian city of Aswan shot and killed a bystander while searching for a drug dealer; riots ensued (ref C). According to xxxxxxxxxxxx lawyers who are representing the victim, the trial is ongoing.

10. (C) Port Said Blog Post: On August 12, blogger Wael Abbas posted a video depicting the alleged torture of a man in the Port Said police station. In the video, the man is suspended by his hands, bleeding from his torso and pleading for the torture to stop. Abbas told us October 27 that there has been little media interest in the case, and that, as far as he knows, no human rights lawyers have expressed interest in representing the victim. Scobey

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