The military prosecution in Cairo is investigating the death of the Coptic army recruit Joseph Reda Helmy, a 22-year-old technical school graduate, who lost his life on 20 July hours after he had been admitted to the special guards camp in the Cairo eastern satellite town of Madinet as-Salam. The military prosecution ordered a 15-day detention of three non-commissioned officers and one policeman pending investigation. The prosecution also interrogated police officer Captain Muhammad Turk who was on duty when Mr Helmy was admitted to camp, and who was accused by the other four suspects of giving orders to beat him up.
Ramsis al-Naggar, the lawyer who represents Mr Helmy’s family, told Watani that the recruit had barely been four hours in camp when he was killed. Mr Naggar said that the preliminary report confirmed that the victim’s body had numerous wounds and bruises, some of them revealing that he had been dragged on the ground. The father, Reda Helmy, who took photographs of his son’s body before preparing it for burial, said that the body bore obvious signs of torture in several places: the neck, shoulders, abdomen, legs, and testicles which might indicate he was electrocuted. Mr Naggar claims the young recruit was killed on identity, since he carried a tattoo of the Holy Virgin on his arm.
Mr Helmy was recruited for military service and admitted into military camp on 16 July 2017 for training. Four days later he was moved to the special guards camp which is affiliated to the Interior Ministry. A few hours afterwards, his family received official notification that their son had died.
Eyewitnesses claim that Mr Helmy got into a ‘discussion’ with a policeman; it is not certain whether or not this discussion concerned his arm tattoo. As the discussion heated up, the policemen were given orders to ‘beat up’ the young man for him to tow the line. He was beaten then put in a solitary cell then again beaten up. The defendants who were questioned by the prosecution said they beat him up with wooden beams and he lost consciousness. They took him to Madinet as-Salam public hospital where they were told he had died. The doctors detected signs of violence on the body, suspected criminal action, and informed the public prosecution.
Since Mr Helmy had been an army recruit, the case was referred to the military prosecution in Nasr City, east of Cairo, which is currently conducting the investigation into the crime and has asked for a speedy after-death report from the Forensic Medicine Department.
The elder Mr Helmy is devastated. “My son went for military service, only to die four days later!” he lamented. “He had been preparing to get married next October. Those who killed him must be brought to justice.”
The young recruit was obviously a figure well-loved by Christian as well as Muslims in his home village of Kafr Darwish, al-Fashn, in Beni Sweif some 100km south of Cairo. Once news of his death was out, it was circulated through the local mosques’ microphones, together with a call for the villagers to participate in his funeral procession.
The head of the special guards called the Helmys for condolence. He confirmed his support for the family and that anyone who is proved to have had a hand in killing the Coptic recruit would be brought to justice; no one would be allowed to get away with the crime, he said.