Egyptian now blames police for beating, dragging him naked

Egyptian riot police beat a man, after stripping him, and before dragging him into a police van, during clashes next to the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Feb. 1, 2013. Protesters denouncing Egypt's Islamist president hurled stones and firebombs through the gates of his palace gates on Friday, clashing with security forces who fired tear gas and water cannons, as more than a week of political violence came to Mohammed Morsi's symbolic doorstep for the first time.
AP Photo/Khalil Hamra

CAIROAn Egyptian man who was beaten and dragged naked by riot police during a violent protest changed his story on Sunday, telling prosecutors that security forces harmed him -- a day after he accused protesters of undressing and assaulting him.

The beating was caught on camera by The Associated Press, and the video was broadcast live on Egyptian television late Friday as protests raged in the streets outside the presidential palace. The AP video showed police trying to bundle the naked man into a police van after beating him.

The beating prompted a rare statement of regret from the Interior Ministry, which promised to investigate the attack. The president's office said it was pained by the images and called the assault "shocking."

A new video emerged online Sunday of Hamda Saber in a hospital bed telling activists that police apologized for any wrongdoing. A male and female are heard urging him to speak honestly and not to accept any payments for absolving police in any abuse.

Egyptian riot police beat a man, after stripping him during clashes next to the presidential palace, Friday, Feb. 1, 2013, in Cairo.
Egyptian riot police beat a man, after stripping him during clashes next to the presidential palace, Friday, Feb. 1, 2013, in Cairo.
AP Photo/Khalil Hamra

Saber was receiving treatment at a police hospital when he told prosecutors that protesters undressed him during clashes, denying police assaulted him. Later, speaking in a telephone interview to the Egyptian satellite channel al-Hayat, Saber said he changed his story to blame police after pressure from family and friends.

State prosecutors have since moved him to a public hospital.

"I said police are the ones who beat me," Saber tells the TV presenter. "By the time I reached the armored car, they had undressed me and my pants and were still dragging me."

On Sunday a 20-year-old man wounded in Friday's clashes died in a hospital. He was the second to die from the violence that night. The Health Ministry said both were shot in the head and chest.

Activists and the opposition accuse the police of using excessive force against protesters, some of whom have attacked government facilities and policemen.

Saber said police were beating him and ordering him to stand up and that he was unable to because of a bird shot injury to his foot. He told the TV presenter he was scared to be arrested and thrown into the armored vehicle.

Saber then said that his family, including his children, threatened to shun him unless he told the truth about the police attack.

"After becoming a hero, I was being ridiculed online and on Facebook and being accused of not being a real Egyptian and of taking money."

"I tell everyone at the presidential palace and Tahrir (Square) that I am sorry."

He said the officials at the police hospital treated him well, and that he was not pressured to distort what happened. He said he initially gave incorrect testimony to try to avoid more problems.

Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim angered activists Saturday when he told reporters that initial results of the state prosecutor's investigation showed that police were absolved of direct abuse and that protesters were the ones who undressed Saber.

The march on the palace Friday evening, where President Mohammed Morsi was not present, was part of a wave of demonstrations in cities around the country called by opposition politicians, trying to wrest concessions from Morsi after around 60 people were killed in protests, clashes and riots over the past week.