05/09/2013, 00.00
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As people take the law in their own hands, lynching and vigilante murders rise

In Sharqiya province (Nile Delta), vigilante justice is a daily occurrence. Scores of videos are posted online with scenes of criminals killed by angry mobs, their bodies hanged as a warning at the entrance of the villages. Experts point the finger at rampant crime and the bad example of the police, whose violence and bloodshed has gone unpunished so far.

Cairo (AsiaNews) - Egypt's regular courts are increasingly replaced by mob killings, lynching, hangings and Sharia courts. In Sharqiya Governorate, east of the Nile Delta, vigilante or Islamic justice has become the norm in the past two years. Shocking online videos show mobs attacking unarmed men, beating them to death. In some cases, their mutilated bodies are strung up in the middle of a village. The police are notable for their absence or indifference.

The latest mob killing was reported last Friday, when hundreds of residents in Qataweya village stormed the house of Rabie Lasheen, a local Muslim Brotherhood leader, and lynched his 16-year-old son Youssef, who died in hospital from his injuries.

Lasheen's son was accused of shooting a 28-year-old man for insulting his father in a Facebook post. An auto-rickshaw (tok-tok) driver in his 40s was accidentally gunned down in the shooting as well.

According to some witnesses, the police were again completely absent during the lynching. Two police officers were dispatched to the crime scene at dawn after the violence had ended.

Such violence in Sharqiya has been blamed on the governatorate's high crime rate, on gangs into car thefts, rapes and murders.

The most affected villages are located near the city of Belbies, 20 km from the provincial capital of Zagazig.

Interviewed by the Egyptian newspaper Arham, police officers in Belbies admit that they can do nothing to address this situation. There are too few of them and they are poorly paid to fight too many crimes. In such circumstances, people prefer to take the law into their own hands.

"What do we do when we receive reports about such incidents?" Major Mohamed Dabbous asked. "Absolutely nothing!"

"It happens in an instant; no way would we make it to the crime scene on time, especially if the road is blocked and that happens quite frequently here" due to protests, riots or other types of disturbance. Only if the Prosecutor's Office orders it are people arrested.

What is more, "When a whole village kills a man, do you think it is possible to arrest all 10 to 15,000 residents? Of course not," Captain Farag explained. And killing criminals has now become a source of local pride.

In recent years, several villages in other governorates have also witnessed brutal lynching. One of the most harrowing took place in Mahalla Ziad village, in March. Locals beat and stabbed two men accused of abducting two young boys.

Samir Naim, a veteran sociologist and professor at Ain Shams University, says we have to look to the military for explanations.

In 2011 and 2012, security forces carried out massacres with impunity with nearly a thousand people killed during the demonstrations of the Jasmine Revolution.

For the expert, the glorification of violence has changed the concept of justice in rural areas, justifying the establishment of local militias and improvised courts.

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