Trial of officials responsible for torturing Waily victim Hussein Farghali to death: EIPR urges court to punish perpetrators and end police impunity
Sunday, April 15, marked the beginning of the trial of one police officer and eight sub-officers and NCOs with the Waily police station—none of whom have been remanded to custody—in connection with case no. 4126/2016/Waily felonies, entered as case no. 2868/2016/West Cairo Plenary and no. 20/2016/West Cairo incident investigations. The defendants face several charges, including battery and assault leading to death, the use of force while exploiting the authority of their office and thereby dishonoring the office, possession of unlicensed weapons, and accidental injury and bodily harm. At the conclusion of the session, the Cairo Felony Court adjourned to June 20 to hear testimony from witnesses and forensic experts.
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights has offered legal assistance to the family of the first and principal victim in the incident, Hussein Farghali who died as a result of the beating and torture meted out by the defendants. In June 2016, the EIPR sought to have the defendants charged with torture under Article 126 of the Penal Code; today the EIPR urges the court to hand down the maximum sentence to the defendants for assault with malice aforethought (intent to inflict serious bodily injury) leading to death.
The prosecution’s investigations clearly stated that the nine defendants “intentionally beat the victim, Hussein Farghali. Namely, they fell upon his body with blows using blunt instruments (clubs, a pistol butt), their hands, and their feet, causing the injuries and pain described in the autopsy report. This caused emotional agitation and muscular exertion which contributed to and precipitated a severe coronary attack that resulted in his death. They did not intend to kill him, but the assault led to his death.” They also used force against other victims, among them the deceased victim’s son and wife, “exploiting the authority of their office.”
The investigations and referral order filed by the prosecution further stated that the fifth defendant, a policeman, used an unlicensed shotgun and through his error, recklessness, lack of caution, and disregard for laws and regulations thereby caused the injury of the fourth victim. (The victim, Aya Mohammed Sayyed Hassan, had no connection with the incident and was simply standing on her balcony when the defendant fired the shotgun.) The referral states that “in a grave breach of the requirements of his office, the defendant fired several shots in the air from the unlicensed weapon without exercising caution or ensuring that no people were in the range of fire. The shots were fired in disregard for correct procedures for the use of firearms required by the duties of his office, and one of the shots hit the woman.”
The EIPR had previously spoken with ten witnesses to the incident and documented their statements. We also viewed video footage showing Hussein Farghali being brutally beaten with clubs, punched, and kicked in a vengeful manner wholly disproportionate to any imaginable purpose of police intervention. The footage, which is appended to the EIPR’s aforementioned report, also shows that police continued to beat the victim with clubs and sticks after he was placed in the police truck, using such violence that the police truck itself was damaged by the blows.
Although the defendants were charged with abusing the authority of their office in a way that dishonored it and although their positions gives them the ability to influence the course of the case or pressure witnesses—an explicit grounds for pretrial detention—the defendants were released shortly after the incident. The court upheld this decision in the first session of the trial, even as the prosecution increasingly and broadly wields pretrial detention in a punitive manner against defendants in other cases who do not possess such powers.
The EIPR again urges the court to sentence the defendants to the maximum penalty allowed for the crimes for which they are charged, the prosecution having declined to charge the defendants with torture under Article 126 of the Penal Code and instead opting for assault leading to death. The premeditation element is clearly present in this case: the defendants brutalized the victim, far out of line with any potential threat the defendant or his family may have posed and using implements such as clubs, a chair, and a pistol butt that have no place in police work. They beat the victim for nearly an hour, according to witness statements and video footage. Given the professional expertise of these policemen, they could not have been unaware that the violence used in this incident would not only possibly, but indeed likely lead to death.