Amnesty calls for inquiry into Egypt 'police torture'

Egyptian riot police (file) Rights groups have criticised Egypt's record on torture and illegal detention

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Rights group Amnesty International has called for a full investigation into claims that a young man was tortured to death at a police station in Egypt.

The disfigured body of Ahmed Shaaban, 19, was found in a canal last week after he and a friend were arrested in the northern port city of Alexandria.

The police deny any wrongdoing.

Amnesty has also called on the Egyptian authorities to guarantee the safety of Mr Shaaban's friend, Ahmed Farrag Labib, who is still in police custody.

Two policemen from the same force were charged earlier this year in connection with the death of another young man, 28-year-old Khaled Said. The officers are due to stand trial soon.

'Disturbing allegations'

The family of Ahmed Shaaban says he went missing on 7 November while on his way home from a wedding with his friend.

Witnesses told the family that the pair were stopped at a police checkpoint and arrested when they refused to be searched.

But the police denied holding Mr Shaaban, telling his family that they had only detained Mr Labib on suspicion of stealing a mobile phone.

Four days later, Mr Shaaban's corpse was recovered from a canal and returned to them covered in bruises to the head and body, which family members attribute to police torture and beating.

"These disturbing allegations of enforced disappearance and death in custody, and possibly unlawful killing by police, must be immediately and fully investigated by an independent body," Malcolm Smart, Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa director, said in a statement.

Amnesty has also expressed concern for the safety of Mr Shaaban's friend, who has reportedly been held at Alexandria's Sidi Gaber police station since 7 November without access to his family and lawyers.

"The Egyptian authorities must ensure that Ahmed Farrag Labib is protected against possible torture or other mistreatment, and not intimidated by those detaining him," said Mr Smart.

The group noted that his evidence will be crucial to an investigation of the case.

Egypt's interior ministry has refused to comment on the case and its Arabic-language press has not covered the story.

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