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Egypt

Two Egyptian activists die, police under scrutiny

Calls for a police shake-up have grown in Egypt after the deaths of two opposition activists. Egypt's culture minister has reportedly quit after police were filmed dragging a third man naked into an armoured vehicle.

President Mohamed Morsi's office said he had ordered prosecutors to probe police handling of activist Mohamed el Gindy, aged 28. His death on Monday was the "result of torture," said the Popular Current, the party to which he belonged.

A party spokesman said el Gindy was last seen on Cairo's Tahrir Square eight days ago. Doctors said he died Monday in a coma after being delivered four days previously, unconscious with multiple fractures and brain damage, to a clinic.

The other activist, Amr Saad, 20, also died on Monday, the party said, after being injured during clashes with police outside the presidential palace last Friday.

Leading dissident and former UN nuclear agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei in a text message said both young activists had been "tortured and killed in quest for human dignity."

"Regime oblivious that violence begets violence and brutality is sure to backfire," ElBaradei texted.

Police abuse 'systematic'

The rights group, EIPR (the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights) accused Egyptian police on Monday of continuing to "systematically deploy violence and torture, and at times even kill."

Consistent physical and psychological violence against detainees had led to deaths in "many cases" it had investigated, the EIPR said.

While hundreds turned out in Tahrir Square for funeral prayers for the activists, Egypt's interior ministry said 396 policemen had been injured in protests since January 25. That's when protests began to mark the second anniversary of the start of Egypt's uprising in early 2011 that prompted the ouster of ex-president Hosni Mubarak.

MENA: minister quits

Monday's deaths coincided with a report from the official news agency MENA that Culture Minister Mohammed Saber Arab had tendered his resignation because of another case of alleged police abuse.

The footage which sparked public outrage had shown police stripping and beating a third man, Hamada Saber, 48, on Friday outside the presidential palace as police clashed with anti-government protestors.

Saber, who survived the incident, was dragged into an armored vehicle and later told prosecutors that riot police were responsible after retracting his previous claim that protestors were to blame.

Over the past week, some 60 people were killed in clashes and protests against Morsi's government. Morsi's office insisted on Monday that there would be no return to the violations of human rights that prevailed during Mubarak's era.

Egypt's opposition continues to called for a national unity government, which Morsi had rejected until parliamentary elections due in April.

ipj/kms (KNA, AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)