New autopsy for Egypt 'police beating victim'

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Activist with image of Khaled Said
Image caption,
Activists marched in Egyptian cities to demand a new probe into the death

A second autopsy has been ordered for a young man who human rights activists claim was killed by police in Egypt.

Khaled Said, 28, died on 6 June after plainclothes policemen reportedly tried to search him in an Alexandria cafe.

His family and campaigners claim he was dragged out and beaten to death on a busy street in full view of passersby. His death led to angry demonstrations.

Egypt's interior ministry said Mr Said died after swallowing a bag of drugs when police tried to arrest him.

Prosecutor General Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud transferred the case to Egypt's most senior coroners on Tuesday.

Street protests

The United States expressed concern over the death in the northern port city, and Washington welcomed Cairo's decision to launch an investigation.

"We urge the Egyptian authorities to hold accountable whoever is responsible," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.

Campaigners took to the streets of Alexandria and Cairo to demand a fresh investigation after the interior ministry said Mr Said died after swallowing drugs.

Photos of Mr Said's battered face have been circulated in Egypt by human rights activists.

They say his death is evidence that Egypt's emergency law has created a culture of police impunity.

The law, which has been in place for nearly 30 years since the assassination of President Anwar Sadat by an Islamic militant, was recently renewed for a further two years.

Egypt's parliament has said that new legal limits would be introduced, guaranteeing that the law would be used only to counter terrorism and trade in illegal drugs.

But the government's political opponents also claim the legislation is used to target them in the name of national security.