A low-ranking police officer died while being held in detention at Abu Qaraous police station in Minya on Sunday, allegedly due to “circulatory failure”, according to the Ministry of Interior.
When asked about the cause of death, the ministry’s media office told Daily News Egypt Monday that “Salem Hamdy Salem, a master sergeant, fainted in his place of detention and died. There is no criminal suspicion in the incident.”
A master sergeant is a senior non-commissioned officer, who holds the highest rank among non-commissioned officers.
Salem was detained inside the police station after being accused of participating in a fight.
The ministry added that the Abu Qaraous prosecution ordered the burial of the body. It did not disclose what caused the circulatory failure, and did not provide information about the medical report issued after his death.
A medical source previously told Daily News Egypt that anyone could die as the result of circulatory failure. However, the reasons can range from a stroke or concussion, to poison or physical violence.
Circulatory failure is usually the cause cited in official papers related to the deaths occurring in police detention. It is the argument that often circulates in media outlets and officials statements, with few reports considering the Forensic Medicine reports, which would reveal the reason behind the failure.
At the beginning of June, the Nadeem Centre for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence published a report documenting 212 cases of death that relate to actions by the state or security forces. The report included 11 reported cases of death in prisons, 43 cases of prevention of medical services inside prisons, 93 cases of enforced disappearance, and 83 cases of individuals who reappeared after disappearance. It also documented 27 cases of police brutality and 103 cases of torture and maltreatment in detention places.
Police abuse and torture have been widely criticised issues in Egypt in recent years. It was one of the main triggers of the 25 January Revolution in 2011.
The most recent related incident is that of Kareem Hamdy, who died in detention in February 2015. Shortly after his death, the police said he had died from circulatory failure. However, after the case went viral in activist circles and in the press, the Forensic Medicine report was published showing that Hamdy was tortured and beaten to death.
Two of the National Security officers in the Mataryia police station—where Hamdy was killed—are now serving a prison sentence after being charged with “beating to death”.
In a separate incident, a man named Reda was reported to have died in Al-Montazah police station located in Alexandria. The Egyptian Coordination of Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) said that Reda, who was detained Friday on crime-related charges, died after police officers harshly assaulted him until he died.
However, the Ministry of Interior did not confirm the death and did not provide further information about the incident.
ECRF said the victim’s wife refused to sign the medical report after she saw signs of torture on her husband’s body.
The family of the victim was not available for comment.