Walid Denguir left his home Friday afternoon to run an errand. He was soon arrested by police and a few hours later he was dead, his badly beaten body identified at a local hospital by his mother.
Family members say his body showed signs of torture. Pictures have been widely circulated on social media, showing gruesome injuries.
The Ministry of Interior acknowledged yesterday that excessive force during an interrogation led to Denguir's death, but it did not provide further details, saying only that an investigation was being conducted. [display_posts type=”related” limit=”3″ position=”right”]
Denguir, 32, died November 1 after his arrest in the Beb Jdid district of downtown Tunis, his mother Faouzia told Tunisia Live.
He left home on his motorcycle around 4:15 p.m. to buy paint, his mother said. People in the neighborhood told her that Walid was chased down and arrested by a group of police officers.
Less than two hours later, Faouzia said, she received news that her son was dead.
I got a call from a police officer who refused to say his name and simply told me: Walid is dead, she said.
She hurried down to the Sidi el-Bechir police station to confirm the news. She found it surrounded by police cars and officers. Unable to get into the building, she followed an ambulance that was leaving the station, she said.
I was verbally insulted and banned from identifying the body of my son at the police station. That's why I followed the ambulance until it reached Charles Nicoles Hospital, she said. There I was able to uncover the face of the body and realized it was Walid. The body was totally distorted and in very bad shape.
Faouzia claims her son's body showed signs of abuse.
Police officers told me different things about the cause of the death of Walid. Some said he died of a heart attack, others said he was victim of an overdose, but the marks on my son's body indicate he was severely tortured, Faouzia said.
The Ministry of the Interior replied to the reports on Sunday, two days after Denguir's death. The ministry admitted the overuse of force but said it was still waiting for the results of the autopsy to declare the final cause of death. [display_posts type=”same_author” limit=”3″ position=”right”]
The statement said the ministry awaits the report of the coroner to determine the reasons of the death of a suspect, namely Walid Denguir, following the overuse of power exerted on him during the interrogation that led to his death, according to state news agency TAP. Minister of Interior Lotfi Ben Jeddou said today that he would look into the case, TAP also reported.
The Ministry of Interior could not be reached for further comment.
The death of Walid did not get media attention until Saturday, when activists and photographers visited his house to take pictures and talk to the family members.
Azyz Amami, an activist who says he has been a victim of police abuse, sought to spread the news about the death of Walid through a social media campaign.
I heard from a friend who lives in the same neighborhood as Walid of the matter. I instantly tried to get in touch with journalists, activists, and the media, Amami said.
Receiving a government response about the incident in less than 48 hours is unprecedented in cases of deaths allegedly resulting from official use of force, Amami said. In the past, there would be no official acknowledgement, or it would be delayed until long after the incident.
Denguir is not the first such case of alleged death resulting from abuse of police force since the 2011 revolution.
One other incident involves Abderraouf Khammasi, who died in September 2012 as a result of head injuries sustained during police detention, according to Human Rights Watch. The public prosecutor's office brought homicide charges against four police officers in connection with the case.
Radhia Nasraoui, a lawyer representing Denguir's family, visited their home on Saturday to research the case.
“There has been an obvious overuse of violence that led to the death of Walid Denguir, Nasraoui told radio station Express FM. We can see marks on his his legs, hands, and the back of his head. There was also blood coming out from his nose,mouth and ears. It was hideous and brutal.
Walid's mother now awaits the results of the autopsy.
Note: Tunisia Live chose not to display graphic images of Denguir’s body in this article. Photos can be found here.
Nissaf Slama is a previous author and producer with Tunisia Live. Nissaf, who graduated from the Preparatory Institute of English Literary Studies of Tunis in 2012, joined TL early 2013 where she covered political, cultural and civil society stories. Ever since, Nissaf collaborated with the New York Times and Al Jazeera English. Nissaf also interned with the Human Rights Watch where she covered Transitional Justice sexual minorities in Tunisia. Nissaf also worked with Peace Direct's Insight On Conflict as a local peacebuilding expert. Now, Nissaf works with the International Organization for Migration- Libya.