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Freedom on the march, Egypt edition

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It's been a bad week for Egypt's revolutionaries. First, two policemen who beat Khaled Said to death last year – an event that spurred the online activism that set the stage for Egypt's popular uprising in January – were given just seven-year sentences for the crime.

The two junior policemen appeared to have attacked Said in retaliation for his posting video evidence of drug dealing at Alexandria's Sidi Gabr police station. Their superior at the station, which had been involved in other murder and torture incidents, was not tried.

Said – handsome, idealistic, from a well-to-do family – came to symbolize the excesses of former President Hosni Mubarak's unaccountable police state and galvanized the protests that drove him from power. But though Mr. Mubarak is gone, the police state, the powerful military hierarchy, and the Emergency Law that allows security officials a free hand in acting against citizens, all remain. To many activists and average Egyptians, the sentences were a reminder that little had changed.

Then last Thursday came news of a torture death at the hands of guards at Tora Prison – notorious under Mubarak as a place where both political prisoners and common prisoners were subjected to torture and filthy conditions. The victim, Essam Atta, was serving a short sentence for squatting in an apartment, though the details of his alleged crime are murky. Egypt's Al Ahram reported he'd been given a two-year sentence by a military court on Feb. 25, shortly after Mubarak was ousted, and that guards had found him with a cell phone, against prison rules. They beat him, sodomized him with a hose, and also forced a hose down his throat, through which they poured soapy water.


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