Egypt police get 10 years for 2010 beating death

Caged policemen Awad Suliman, right, and Mahmoud Salah, stand behind bars during the sentencing hearing of their retrial in the landmark case of the beating to death of 28-year-old Khaled Said, in the port city of Alexandria, Egypt, Monday, March 3, 2014. An Egyptian court on Monday sentenced two policemen to 10 years in prison each for the 2010 killing of a political activist whose slaying was one of the sparks that led to the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak the following year. (AP Photo/Heba Khamis)

Caged policemen Awad Suliman, right, and Mahmoud Salah, stand behind bars during the sentencing hearing of their retrial in the landmark case of the beating to death of 28-year-old Khaled Said, in the port city of Alexandria, Egypt, Monday, March 3, 2014. An Egyptian court on Monday sentenced two policemen to 10 years in prison each for the 2010 killing of a political activist whose slaying was one of the sparks that led to the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak the following year. (AP Photo/Heba Khamis)

Policeman Mahmoud Salah, right, attends the sentencing hearing of his retrial in the landmark case of the beating to death of 28-year-old Khaled Said, in the port city of Alexandria, Egypt, Monday, March 3, 2014. An Egyptian court on Monday sentenced two policemen to 10 years in prison each for the 2010 killing of a political activist whose slaying was one of the sparks that led to the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak the following year. (AP Photo/Amira Mortada, El Shorouk Newspaper) EGYPT OUT

Policemen Awad Suliman, right, and Mahmoud Salah, second left, stand in a barred cage during the sentencing hearing of their retrial in the landmark case of the beating to death of 28-year-old Khaled Said, in the port city of Alexandria, Egypt, Monday, March 3, 2014. An Egyptian court on Monday sentenced two policemen to 10 years in prison each for the 2010 killing of a political activist whose slaying was one of the sparks that led to the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak the following year. (AP Photo/Amira Mortada, El Shorouk Newspaper) EGYPT OUT

Caged policemen Awad Suliman, right, and Mahmoud Salah, fourth right, stand behind bars with security officials during the sentencing hearing of their retrial in the landmark case of the beating to death of 28-year-old Khaled Said, in the port city of Alexandria, Egypt, Monday, March 3, 2014. An Egyptian court on Monday sentenced two policemen to 10 years in prison each for the 2010 killing of a political activist whose slaying was one of the sparks that led to the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak the following year. (AP Photo/Amira Mortada, El Shorouk Newspaper) EGYPT OUT

Policemen Awad Suliman attends court from behind bars during the sentencing hearing of his retrial in the landmark case of the beating to death of 28-year-old Khaled Said, in the port city of Alexandria, Egypt, Monday, March 3, 2014. An Egyptian court on Monday sentenced two policemen to 10 years in prison each for the 2010 killing of a political activist whose slaying was one of the sparks that led to the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak the following year. (AP Photo/Heba Khamis)

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CAIRO (AP) — A court sentenced two policemen on Monday to 10 years in prison for the 2010 brutal beating death of a young Egyptian that became a rallying cry for the protesters who overthrew longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Rights groups however said the years-long wait before anyone was held accountable for the killing of 28-year-old small businessman Khaled Said in the port city of Alexandria highlights that the wider problem of police abuse, a major grievance of the 2011 protesters, remains unresolved.

Photographs of the dead Said’s face, disfigured by what appeared to be a brutal beating, were posted on the Internet and became a rallying cry against torture and other police brutality under Mubarak. Activists used a Facebook page set up in Said’s memory to call for the protests that ultimately forced Mubarak from power in February 2011.

Authorities long denied that Said was killed, with successive forensic reports and official statements claiming he had choked on a packet of drugs he swallowed to hide it from the approaching policemen.

The two low-ranking policemen — Awad Suliman and Mahmoud Salah — had previously been convicted and handed sentences of seven years but that conviction was later overturned and a new trial was ordered.

Said’s sister Zahraa said her brother was finally vindicated after the Alexandria court confirmed he died under torture and not from suffocation from swallowing drugs. She said she would sue officials who accused her brother of being a drug addict.

“They had defamed his image,” she told The Associated Press. “This is the beginning. We still have to get moral retribution. Then I can tell him to rest in peace.”

The verdict may still be appealed.

Lawyer Mohammed Zarie said the verdict was only possible after the fall of Mubarak’s regime, adding that the long-delayed verdict in Said’s case reveals the faults in a system that protects officials and prevents them from being held accountable.

“Torture has protection,” said Zarie, who runs an organization that looks into torture cases. “State institutions have repeatedly resisted investigation into this case … Regrettably, we can only have retribution for the victims only after the regime is changed.”

Calls to Interior Ministry officials were unreturned. But officials from the ministry had before dismissed claims of continued torture, saying that the police have been reformed since the 2011 uprising.

The ministry said in a statement last month that it was ready to receive and investigate complaints and act against culprits. “This is in light of the change in the work culture in the police force and the insistence on committing to human rights and respecting of human dignity,” the statement said.

Egypt has seen two presidents overthrown since Said’s death: Mubarak, and an Islamist who won 2012

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