CAIRO (Reuters) â€” An Egyptian court was right to convict a minibus driver shown in an Internet video being sodomised by police while in custody, but the police should also be punished, the man’s lawyer said on Tuesday.
Cairo driver Imad Kabir was convicted earlier this month of obstructing justice and assaulting a police officer after he tried to intervene in a dispute between police and a relative.
The lawyer, Nasser Amin of the Arab Centre for the Independence of the Judiciary, said he hoped the same judge would treat as equally serious the case of two police officers accused of abusing the man, when their trial starts in March.
“I think the court will punish the police officers in this case,” Amin said, saying he was hoping they would be handed a multiple-year jail term.
The case triggered an uproar after a video clip circulated on Egyptian blogs last year showing Kabir lying on the floor, naked from the waist down, as an unidentified man sodomised him with a stick as he begged for mercy.
After the torture video came to light, Egypt arrested the two police officers suspected of involvement in the abuse.
“I know Imad did something wrong. When he stopped the police officer in the street… Imad pushed the police officer and stopped the car,” Amin said.
“This was wrong of Imad. But we think if Imad did something wrong, it doesn’t give the police officer the right to punish Imad. This is a crime and that is a crime,” he added.
Amin said although he hated to see his client go to jail, he was relieved the court had handed down a sentence of just three months, saying Egyptian sentencing guidelines could have seen him jailed for three to 10 years.
Amin also said he hoped the light sentence was an indication that the judge in the case was sympathetic to Kabir. In March, the same judge will try the case of the police officers accused of carrying out the abuse.
“The decision of the court against Imad, I think it was right. I think Imad took a very small punishment. Three months is very, very small,” Amin said.
“I think the judge’s thinking is that if Imad did something wrong we will punish him, and if the police officer did something wrong we will punish him,” Amin added.
Amin said his client was currently serving out his sentence in a jail in Giza, on the outskirts of the Egyptian capital, and was being treated well in detention.
“He told me [through a mediator] the situation inside is very good right now. He is happy with the situation,” Amin said.
International human rights groups including Amnesty International, while avoiding comment on the validity of Kabir’s conviction, had expressed fears that he could face reprisal violence in prison.
Rights groups say that torture is commonplace in Egyptian jails and police stations. Egypt says it does not condone torture, and that it occurs in isolated instances.