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Viewing cable 09CAIRO159, JUDGE RELEASES POLICE OFFICER CHARGED WITH SAMALUT

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09CAIRO159 2009-01-29 15:03 2011-02-16 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Cairo
VZCZCXRO8158
RR RUEHROV
DE RUEHEG #0159 0291517
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 291517Z JAN 09
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1491
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
C O N F I D E N T I A L CAIRO 000159 
 
SIPDIS 
 
FOR NEA/ELA, DRL/NESCA AND INL 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/29/2029 
TAGS: PHUM PGOV KDEM EG
SUBJECT: JUDGE RELEASES POLICE OFFICER CHARGED WITH SAMALUT 
KILLING 
 
REF: A. CAIRO 79 B. 08 CAIRO 2260 Classified By: ECPO Mincouns William R. Stewart for reason 1.4 (d).
1.(C) Summary and comment: On January 19, a judge in Minya (150 miles south of Cairo) released police officer Mohammed Anwar, who had been detained on January 13 on charges of killing a 32-year old pregnant woman, Mervat Abdel Sattar, in October 2008 when she tried to prevent police from entering her home in the village of Samalut (reftels). The police had entered Abdel Sattar's home in order to arrest her brother-in-law for theft. The judge released Anwar after the key witness in the case, the victim's sister-in-law, retracted her testimony identifying Anwar as the culprit. Human rights lawyers have accused the police of intimidating the witness into changing her testimony. Contacts criticized the judge for not throwing out the changed testimony as invalid. The release will only reinforce public perceptions that the police operate with impunity and are able to manipulate the judicial system. End summary and comment.

2.(C) According to press reports January 20, the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, a reputable legal aid organization, accused the police of intimidating the key witness into changing her testimony by threatening not to release from prison family members who were detained following the October riots that broke out in response to the killing. (Note: There were no reports of demonstrations or violence in Samalut following the January 19 release. End note.) XXXXXXXXXXXXX told us privately January 27 it was "certain" the police had influenced the witness to change her testimony, but he was unable to provide supporting details.

3.(C) XXXXXXXXXXXXX criticized the judge for releasing the police officer on the basis of this retracted testimony. XXXXXXXXXXXXX told us that because the judge understood the witness would be subject to pressure, he should have thrown out the new testimony as invalid. XXXXXXXXXXXXX opined that the judge did not have the "political weight" necessary to stand up to the police. He commented that the prosecution still has the legal right to continue with the case, as the police officer still stands accused of the crime. However, XXXXXXXXXXXXX continued, most prosecutors do not continue with such cases in the face of police opposition.

4.(C) XXXXXXXXXXXXX speculated that the police may have concluded a private arrangement with the family, whereby the sister-in-law agreed to retract her testimony in exchange for a payment of "blood money" to the family. Al-Borai assessed that such arrangements between the police and the families of victims are common, especially in cases such as this when the family is poor. XXXXXXXXXXXXX, told us he believes it is plausible that the police intimidated the witness in the case, and noted that in the past State Security has silenced the families of victims through threats. He praised the Hisham Mubarak Center for the usual quality of its work, and said that the center's accusations could very well be credible.

5.(C) Comment: The officer's release will only reinforce public perceptions that the police operate with impunity and are able to manipulate the judicial system. Courts convicted and sentenced police officers to prison terms in two fall 2008 cases that involved the use of gratuitous violence outside the direct scope of their police work: beating and drowning a fisherman, and hooking a man to their car and then running him over (ref A). Because the Samalut killing occurred while the officer was in pursuit of a suspected criminal, it is possible that these different circumstances could have influenced the police to prevent the case from making its way through the criminal justice system. SCOBEY