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Review ordered of death that helped spark Egypt's revolution

Trial of two policemen accused of beating Khaled Said, a young businessman whose death helped trigger Egypt's uprising, delayed for an independent review of disputed forensic evidence.

Egyptians shout anti-police slogans and hold up posters of 28-year-old Khaled Said during the trial session of two Egyptian policemen charged with brutality in the death of the young Alexandria man. Tarek Fawzy / AP Photo
Egyptians shout anti-police slogans and hold up posters of 28-year-old Khaled Said during the trial session of two Egyptian policemen charged with brutality in the death of the young Alexandria man. Tarek Fawzy / AP Photo

ALEXANDRIA // An Egyptian court yesterday ordered an independent review of disputed forensic evidence used in the defence of two policemen accused of beating a young businessman whose death helped trigger Egypt's uprising.

The state forensic report concluded that Khaled Said died as a result of swallowing a packet of drugs. The finding has been widely ridiculed because photos of Said's battered body showed his face bloodied and his jaw shattered.

Said's death in June last year in Alexandria captured the attention of millions in Egypt and helped spark the 18-day uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak in February. Witnesses say police agents dragged him from an internet cafe after an argument and savagely beat him on the pavement outside.

His death became an immediate rallying point for activists campaigning against widespread police brutality and other human rights abuses under former President Hosni Mubarak.

Months later, a Facebook page created in his memory was used to put out a call for the protests on January 25 that grew into the 18-day uprising that would topple Mubarak.

The court had been expected to deliver a verdict yesterday, but instead ordered the review of evidence. The trial will resume on September 24.

Said's family welcomed the review, which raised the possibility that the more serious charge of manslaughter could be added to the indictment against the policemen, currently charged with illegal arrest and the use of excessive force.

"We want them executed," said Zahra, Said's sister, who attended yesterday's hearing.

The proceedings were held amid tight security provided by army troops backed by armoured fighting vehicles.

The court said a committee of forensic experts from three Egyptian universities would review the report on the cause of Said's death prepared by the state's chief coroner.

Al Bakry Al Afify, one of six defence lawyers, said he welcomed the decision.

"It is not a problem of delayed justice," he said. "It makes no difference how long the trial lasts. The important thing is to get a satisfactory verdict."

A crowd of some 200 people chanted slogans against Egypt's military rulers outside the courthouse, protesting against the perceived slow pace of the prosecution of Mr Mubarak and stalwarts of his regime. Those complaints were also at the root of two days of rioting in Cairo this week that left more than 1,000 people wounded.

The military took control of the country from Mubarak, when he stepped down on February 11 and is overseeing a return to civilian rule and a hoped-for transition to democracy.