Egyptian Activist Known as 'Sandmonkey' Reveals Identity After Police Beating

Mahmoud Salem said he was beaten, detained. "Police operate on fear."

January 25, 2011, 1:58 PM

Feb. 7, 2011 — -- After he said he was beaten by police, a popular Egyptian blogger has revealed his identity and his role in posting dozens of graphic videos showing police beating and torturing their victims.

"[It's] horrific stuff and they like to take pictures and video of it and showcase it to other people," Mahmoud Salem, author of the blog "Rantings of a Sandmonkey," told ABC News. "They have those videos to terrorize people... Our police operates on fear. It doesn't recognize or respect the law."

In one of the videos, a woman in pain as she hangs from a pole by her wrists and legs. She was left there for a day, Salem said.

But while videos reportedly showing police beating suspects are not uncommon, it was the alleged murder of 28-year-old Khaled Said at the hands of police -- and the widespread publicity the man's death received online with the help of activists bloggers like Salem and tributes on Facebook -- that "fueled this revolution" in Egypt, Salem said.

"Khaled Said caused a huge outrage in Egypt," Salem said of the man who was allegedly beaten to death by police in broad daylight in June 2010. "If you've seen the picture of what they've done to him, it was the most brutal thing I have ever seen... This caused an outrage in Egypt but nothing happened. This is what fueled this revolution more or less. The fact that there are no rights and no accountability. You could kill a guy and not get punished. You cannot have that."

Outrage over the June 6 incident sparked the creation of a huge Facebook group called We Are All Khaled Said, with more than 40,000 on-line supporters. It was that web site which first called for Egyptians to gather in protest on a day of anger on January 25 -- a date chosen because it is officially celebrated as "National Police Day" in Egypt.

When protestors gathered in the streets on January 25 in Alexandria, Said's photo was carried aloft in posters and banners. Egyptians across the country have not stopped protesting since.

CLICK HERE to read ABC News' report on Khaled Said: The Face That Launched a Revolution.

Salem said that he witnessed the police brutality first hand last week when he attempted to escape a mob by asking for the help of nearby police. "That was our biggest mistake," he said.

"They incited all the people to attack us, claiming we are tourists and Zionist agents," Salem told ABC News over the weekend. "Most of them [the mob] were security, but in street clothes... They started attacking the car, kicking the windows. I discovered that fighting one is OK, but fighting five isn't working, so I got in the car and they were smashing the car.

"It was a horrific scene. It lasted 35 minutes of us stuck in the car while they were destroying it and beating us inside," he said. "They wanted to tear us apart."

Salem said he was finally rescued by other policemen and taken to a police station. But there no one would file a police report and they were eventually driven to a tunnel and told to make their own way home.

Al-Jazeera Reporter Detained

An Egyptian-American reporter for Al-Jazeera English was detained for hours Sunday by Egyptian police after asking questions about a video that appears to show police gunning down an unarmed man.

Al-Jazeera correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin told ABC News he was bound, blindfolded and threatened by Egyptian police and witnessed beatings of other suspects in a police station just hours after he asked his Twitter followers for more information on the video.

The video, recorded in Alexandria, Egypt, on Jan. 31, according to its description, shows a man walking towards a group of police with his arms spread out, gesturing that he is unarmed. The man stops about thirty feet away from the police and, after a few tense seconds, begins to back away before a single shot rings out.

The man is knocked to the ground and lays motionless as a woman, heard in the video, screams, "Why, you animals? Why?"

After seeing the video, Mohyeldin asked his Twitter followers if anyone knew more about the incident.

The next Tweet made from his account -- six hours later -- said, "Ayman has been detained by Egypt military... (tweeted by a friend)."

While in custody, Mohyeldin said he saw many people being beaten by police.

"People that were sitting next to us, that were other people that were arrested in the crowd -- they were not journalists -- they were slapped, they were kicked, they were beaten," he told ABC News after his release seven hours later. "I saw them use a great deal of violence on the people that were there."

Mohyeldin said he doesn't necessarily believe his arrest was connected to his inquiries about the shooting video, but said he was rounded up simply because he was a journalist.

Egyptian Blogger Wael Abbas Recounts Odyssey of Repeated Detentions

Wael Abbas, an Egyptian journalist who also posted police brutality videos on his website, had been able to elude police capture for days at the start of the protests by moving constantly and staying on the phone for only a couple minutes at a time. Eventually, however he was captured and detained but later released.

Since then, he told ABC News, every movement around the city has turned into a tense odyssey of checkpoints, searches, detentions and terrifying threats of death.

Each time he's stopped while traveling, Abbas said he is asked "Are you Egyptian? Why are you here?" and searched. At one point, he said police began screaming at him and frightened him so much he thought he was going to be killed on the spot.

And though he's posted several videos of police brutality, Abbas said he did not witness any during his short stints in detention.

"Always when I am in a police station and they know who I am, or they know I am a journalist, they try to be nice and gentle to suspects," he said. "They never beat suspects in front of me."

But like Salem, Abbas said police make the videos because they are "untouchable."

"They spend the time torturing the suspects and they laugh about it and they show these videos to each other and somehow these videos are leaked," he said. "I hope that this revolution succeeds and it bring change."

CLICK HERE to read ABC News' report on Wael Abbas.

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