Officers convicted of manslaughter despite evidence of deliberate murder.
ISTANBUL, June 8 (Compass Direct News) – Two policemen convicted of killing a Christian in Giza, Egypt have received only a five-year prison sentence for what lawyers are calling the cold-blooded murder of a Copt who stood up for his rights.
The Giza Criminal Court sentenced the two policemen for manslaughter on May 25 for the 2007 death of Nasser Gadallah, 39. Police say he jumped out of a window in an effort to escape, but family members who were eyewitnesses said the officers beat Gadallah and pushed him out the window in intentional murder because he was a Christian who had filed a complaint against police.
The court, however, determined Gadallah died from the officers beating him, and that they did not intend to kill him.
“The court did not punish them [more severely], because from its point of view the officers didn’t kill him,” said family lawyer Nadia Tawfeeq. “They just beat him, and when they beat him he died.”
Gadallah, a plumber, was walking home from work on Aug. 3, 2007 when a police officer, Amir Sobhi, stopped him and took all the money on him, 280 Egyptian Pounds (US$50), and his mobile phone. Recognizing Sobhi because he had previously harassed him, Gadallah filed a police report against him citing the most recent and previous extortion incidents. Sobhi was suspended from duty for four days while police investigated the report.
A source said Gadallah’s wife told him not to file the complaint, saying they did not have power and would be unable to defend themselves. In Egypt, police corruption is rampant, according to local sources.
“But it is a known fact that Copts are definitely picked on more, because they are Christian,” said a source. “They are peaceful people and simply don’t know how to ask for their rights.”
After midnight, in the wee hours of Aug. 7, 2007, two cars full of police officers, along with Police Investigations Officer Ahmed Alnawawy, arrived at Gadallah’s home but found the gate of the family apartment complex locked. The five policemen broke into the neighbor’s home and beat him before they jumped over a wall into the Gadallah home complex.
After beating Gadallah’s brothers and father, the officers broke into his third-floor apartment and beat him, and two of them threw him out a window onto the street as his wife and children looked on, according to Tawfeeq.
“In their minds, he shouldn’t have complained because he was a Copt,” said Tawfeeq.
According to Gadallah’s widow, Mariam Gadallah, who saw the officers beating her husband, one of the officers said to him, “You are Coptic. You have no value.”
“The judge didn’t believe her,” said Tawfeeq of the widow’s testimony. “You know the man is a Christian, so they did not consider it murder.”
Tawfeeq confirmed that the court gave the two policemen who threw him out the window a lenient sentence because it determined that Gadallah’s cause of death was complications due to beating.
The lawyers said that Alnawawy gave the order to the officers to kill Gadallah. According to a neighbor’s account, one of the officers ran out of the building to Alnawawy saying: “We killed the guy, we killed the guy,” said Tawfeeq.
Seeing his body on the ground, neighbors attacked one of the police cars, while some of the officers in the other vehicle managed to escape.
Although most facts and witnesses point to direct orders of Alnawawy, the court freed him of complicity, said prosecuting lawyer Naguib Gobraiel.
“There were instructions from Alnawawy,” Gobraiel said. “The police can’t do anything without him.”
Mariam Gadallah, left with three children ages 2 to 8 and no viable source of income, said she was disappointed in the court’s soft sentence and the lack of compensation to the deceased’s family.
With irritation in her voice, she said, “I think the sentence is very lenient.”
Lawyers applied for an appeal to the federal attorney general last week calling for a re-classification of the killing as “willful, premeditated, and deliberate.” Gobraiel said they also plan to also file a lawsuit against the internal minister for allowing five officers to leave their post at the police station during work hours to attack Gadallah in his home.
“I see this decision as very weak and not suitable for this crime,” Gobraiel said. “This crime is a killing, not a beating.”
Report from Compass Direct News