CAIRO – The video outraged Egyptians, showing riot police strip and beat a middle-aged man and drag him across the pavement as they cracked down on protesters. The follow-up was even more startling: In his first comments afterward, the man insisted the police were just trying to help him.
Hamada Saber’s account, which he has since acknowledged was false, has raised accusations that police intimidated or bribed him in a clumsy attempt to cover up the incident, which was captured by Associated Press footage widely shown on Egyptian TV.
He was terrified. He was scared to speak, Saber’s son Ahmed told The AP on Monday. Saber recanted his story Sunday after his family pushed him to tell the truth and acknowledge that the police beat him.
The incident has fueled an outcry that security forces, notorious for corruption, torture and abuse under former President Hosni Mubarak, have not changed in the nearly two years since his ouster. Activists now accuse Mubarak’s Islamist successor, Mohammed Morsi, of cultivating the same culture of abuse as police crack down on his opponents.
The outcry was further heightened Monday by the apparent torture death of an activist, whom colleagues say was taken by police from a Tahrir Square protest Jan. 27 and held at a Cairo security base known as Red Mountain.