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Al-Masry Al-Youm’s multimedia team mediated a live interview between Ali Qassem--uncle of Khaled Saeed, who witnesses say was tortured to death by police earlier this month--and supporters on social-networking website Facebook.
This interview (the first of two parts), moderated by Al-Masry Al-Youm Online Community Manager Fathy Abou Hatab, served as a platform by which citizens were able to act as journalists and interviewers in a case that has rocked the nation.
Al-Masry Al-Youm: Tell us about Khaled.
Ali Qassem: Khaled was a regular kid. He lost his dad when he was very young and it shocked him. He was raised by his small family--his mother and siblings--and was cared for by his extended family. As he grew up, he became increasingly interested in computers. He lived in America for a while, where he studied programming.
He was also a music lover and an avid fisherman. He lived very closely with his family. The day he was killed, he was working on a musical piece that he wanted to present to his friend who was getting married. He was kind and peaceful.
Al-Masry: What are the latest developments in the investigation?
Qassem: Prosecutors are still proceeding with the investigation. They are still hearing witnesses and suspects and going over the forensic report. I'm not sure whether they will perform their responsibilities to the fullest. But nothing can be confirmed until investigations are concluded and the final report has been issued by the Public Prosecutor's office.
Al-Masry: Are you aware of the high levels of popular outrage prompted by Khaled’s death?
Qassem: I have been politically active since 1958. I am convinced that the Egyptian people, especially the young, shy away from politics mainly due to disillusionment and unemployment. I didn’t expect all this popular support, which has brought together different people from diverse parts of the country.
Amro Fadlallah from Facebook: Have you experienced any intimidation by the authorities?
Qassem: We haven’t faced any personal intimidation. But there are journalists and media people that have tried to exert psychological pressure on us. We have also been told that witnesses have been threatened to scare them away from giving truthful testimony.
But for the most part, the pressure has been psychological rather than direct. For example, we’ve seen insults in newspapers like, 'your son is a hashash (on drugs).' These people don't even take a moment to consider the feelings of a mother and family who have just lost their son.
Ahmad Moukhtar from Facebook: What footage do you have of Khaled’s body?
Qassem: We were told that a lot of people shot the scene with their mobile phones and that one person even has video footage. But policemen that arrived at the scene confiscated all these mobiles, along with their memory cards. It was actually quite abnormal that so many police came to a scene when they only heard there was a wounded man in the street.
There is a rumor circulating that someone had managed to take a full video of the entire incident; of Khaled being attacked in the cyber-café and being dragged out into the street. But we have no confirmation of this. If that video really exists, I urge its owner to share it with us.
Sayed Badawy from Facebook: Where were the people when all of this happened?
Qassem: This is the problem. People were frightened the moment policemen told them, ‘We are the police. Mind your own business.’ This reminded them of the physical and moral terror that they currently live under.
To be continued in part two