Mystery of Egyptian activist’s death by police brutality

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Mohamed al-Gendy, a popular Egyptian activist and multilingual tourism guide, was last seen alive at around 2:30 a.m. January 28, after saying good night to a journalist friend. When Gendy didn’t attend a planned march the next day, his cellphone switched off, his friends became increasingly concerned, especially due to the fact that he had recently received texts threatening him unless he stopped his activism, according to Newsweek on Monday.

Close friend Ihab Ghobashy searched Cairo for his friend, looking in police stations and hospitals without success. The only evidence of Gendy’s whereabouts was at the Red Mountain police camp - a training facility for the riot police, having previously been used to house detainees during the reign of Dictator Hosni Mubarak. It was not an official prison, but during the days of unrest surrounding Gendy’s disappearance, masses of political prisoners were being admitted again.

Three days later, Ghobashy approached a group of teenage boys who had just been released from the Red Mountain camp with a photo of Gendy. The boys claimed to recognize the man and said Gendy was still inside the camp, though badly beaten. The next day, Gendy’s friends staged a protest demanding his release.

Ghobashy received a call from a friend claiming Gendy had been found at Helal Hospital in central Cairo. His friend was found in a coma in the intensive care unit. He had a brain hemorrhage, fractured ribs, and a severely battered face. Within the week, Gendy was dead.

Ghobashy and his friends remained adamant that they had already searched for Gendy at Helal soon after he had disappeared. Yet according to the hospital, Gendy had been there all along—admitted in the early hours of January 28, as the victim of a hit-and-run. To prove the activist’s admission to the hospital, they provided a patient entry log, obtained by Newsweek. On it, Gendy’s national ID number is listed alongside the entry for a 16-year-old boy, also named Mohamed, but with a different family name.


Certain hospital officials’ were involved in covering up police abuse, opposition activists began to see the similarities between Gendy and Khaled Said, the man from Alexandria whom police beat to death in 2010, sparking the revolution.

Police abuse was a defining aspect of the Mubarak era. Mursi’s government claims that such methods are a holdover from the past—and that it is the Interior Ministry who are resistant to change.
Nonetheless, Gendy’s death has been hard to explain away amidst mounting public pressure.

Mursi’s Justice Minister assured the public that Gendy was undoubtedly killed in a hit-and-run incident; however this lead activists to suspect a cover-up associated with Mursi’s government. Days later, when the autopsy report was released, it remained with the verdict that Gendy was killed by a hit-and-run. Activists and much of the public saw it as part of the lie, comparable to the case in 2010 when authorities had likewise issued a contested medical report claiming that Said had choked to death on a bag of marijuana.

Following the continued uproar, Egypt’s general prosecutor ordered another medical review, which a panel of three doctors completed earlier this month. “We rule out the possibility” of a hit-and-run, said the review, a copy of which was obtained by Newsweek. They affirmed that Gendy likely died “by being beaten violently,” the report says. It is now up to investigators to determine whether activist Gendy’s death was a result of police torture.