Since I broke the story, it has been gathering momentum steadily in local and international media. On the other hand, the family of the victim might itself be the reason to drop the case. They are coming under severe security intimidation.
3 hours after the initial video was published, scores of Alexandrian political activists paid a visit to the family. Moments of solidarity were at its peak. Locals and friends of Ahmad Shaaban expressed their happiness with the scene so far. At that night the activists and the family agreed to organize a massive protest next day at noon.
At noon, tens of Central Security Forces trucks surrounded the neighborhood. Policemen were literally at every corner to prevent the access of any seemingly political activists. Only very few of them along with 3 reporters made it inside.
The security forcefully evicted the planned protest. Reports of insulting and verbal threats to the family came out.
6 hours later, I phoned Tarek, Ahmaad Shabaan’s cousin, whose father is in charge of the whole case now. Tarek told me that his father “was taken by the police into an unknown place”. Tarek couldn’t identify the place although he claims to have talked to his father by phone for 2 minutes.
Ahmed Nassar, an Alexandria human rights lawyer and activist, was supposed to file a case in court on behalf of Shaaban’s family. Nassar told me his family is being threatened so that they don’t give me permission to stand in court on their behalf.
After Tarek told me his father is missing, I phoned his father. The one who answered claimed to be his newphew. His voice was surrounded by utter silence. No noise or environment in the background. He told me ” Ashraf is not here. He went away and forgot his phone”. I asked him what they did concerning the case. He answered :” It will be solved in a friendly manner “. In Egyptian jargon that means dropping the case. I don’t know whether the one who answered is a real nephew or a police officer !
Ashraf Shaaban. the victim’s uncle, has been released hours ago. In a phone call, he told my friend, ” we are coming under severe pressure in our livelihood. Ayman Nour phoned us tp support us. I can’t tell you more on the phone. Let’s meet. ”
On another level, the only eyewitness to that case is Farag, the friend of Ahmed Shaaban who was accompanying him when they got arrested. He is still in custody in Sedi Gaber police station. A case has been filed against him allegedly accusing him of stealing a mobile phone. The case is widely believed to be trumped up as a pretext to arrest him. The life of this eyewitness may be in danger.
Me and my friends ( reporters or activists ) are getting mixed signals whether the family wants to pursue the case legally. In any case, that shall not prevent tens of planned protests in Alexandria in the next few days to be launched. Hopes are gathering to encourage the victim’s family.