Egyptians took to the streets following the death in police custody of Islam Al Ostraly. The rare display of discontent came as exiled whistleblower Mohamed Ali called for new protests on September 20.
In an incident reminiscent of the killing of Khaled Saeed in 2010, an Egyptian man was killed in police custody after an altercation with an officer.
The torture and murder of Saeed a decade ago is considered the precursor to the mass protests that led to the fall of longtime Egyptian ruler, Hosni Mubarak, in 2011.
Protests followed the death of Islam al Ostraly on Monday, with around 300 of his neighbours gathering outside a police station calling the officers “thugs”, according to a report by the Middle East Eye.
Sources told the UK-based outlet that a police officer had tried to obtain a bribe from Ostraly over an alleged infraction involving the front shades of his bird shop.
The 26-year-old then got into an argument with the police officer and the altercation turned into a fight, which resulted in Ostraly’s arrest and detention.
While being transported to the police station, the young man was further beaten by the officers and on Monday, Ostraly’s family received notification from officials that he had died in custody from “circulatory” failure. Ostraly’s friends said that his body bore signs of torture and abuse.
The episode drew out crowds of protesters with police making five further arrests.
While the crowds were small - limited to the hundreds - dissent against the Egyptian regime under the autocrat Abdel Fattah el Sisi is rare, thanks largely by the county’s repressive state security apparatus.
Since coming to power in 2013, Sisi has slaughtered hundreds and jailed tens of thousands of opposition activists.
Mohamed Ali returns
Ostraly’s death and the reaction to it coincided with a renewed call for protest by the exiled dissident Mohamed Ali, who succeeded in bringing out thousands of people onto the streets last year through his viral videos describing corruption within the Egyptian military’s elite.
Ali was a film producer and contractor, who worked on projects for the Egyptian government, before fleeing over a dispute over payments.
The activists accused senior Egyptian officials, including Sisi, of squandering hundreds of millions of dollars in personal projects and white elephants.
Given his previous ties to the military, some have hinted that Ali may enjoy some support within the armed forces, perhaps explaining the Sisi’s sense of urgency to silence him.
According to Ali, the Egyptian dictator sent agents to Spain, where he lives in exile, in order to track him down.
Using a hashtag that read ‘go out on September 20’, which trended in Egypt, Ali urged his compatriots to take to the streets again. The date marks the year anniversary of his previous call for protest.
At least 3,717 people were arrested in last year’s protests, with 3,633 released over the course of the following months, according to state-controlled media.
Those arrested faced accusations of terrorism, as well as charges of taking part in unlicensed protests.
The combination of anger from Ostraly’s death and calls from the popular dissident-in-exile, the potential for further unrest in Egypt grows.