CAIRO -- After a video showing Egyptian police stripping and beating a man went viral, the victim stunned the country when he appeared on state television and accused protesters, not security forces, of assaulting him.
The video shows Hamada Saber, 48, rolling naked in the street Friday as police in riot gear strike him with batons and punch him in the face. After he stopped moving, police officers dragged him face down on the concrete outside the presidential palace, where protesters were clashing with security forces.
The incident outraged President Mohamed Morsi's opposition, which accused the Islamist leader of relying on the same brutal tactics that his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, used to crush dissent. Saber’s ordeal evoked similar public anger to a 2011 video showing military police beating and stripping the abaya off a female protester, revealing her stomach and bra.
"In 2005, Mubarak's followers stripped and dragged protesters. In 2011, the military police stripped and dragged protesters. In 2013, Morsi's police also stripped and dragged protesters," said Gamal Eid, an Egyptian human rights lawyer.
Activists and opposition figures accused the Ministry of Interior of intimidating Saber into exonerating police when he appeared on TV over the weekend. In a bizarre twist, Saber said he was at the protest when he saw a crowd running toward him and then felt as if he had been shot in the leg.
"I fell over. I couldn't stand up again. They surrounded me in a circle and attacked me," he said, referring to demonstrators. "They took my clothes off, maybe they were looking for money in my pockets. Then someone among them shouted: 'He is not a soldier. He is not a soldier. He is an old man and you are going to kill him.' "
He added: "The soldiers ran toward me. I was afraid of them, but they were saying, 'We will not beat you'. I swear to God this is what happened. I kept on running. They said again: 'Do not be afraid.' I kept running away and they said, 'We are exhausted because of you.' "
But in another video released by activists and posted online, Saber claims police officers assaulted him. This account mirrors a statement given by his daughter, who said she witnessed police strip and beat him.
"Here they are treating me with the utmost respect, all the big people, from majors to generals," Saber said from his wing at a military hospital. "They've admitted to me that they have wronged me and I've [forgiven them]. It's all right, we all make mistakes."
The government said the incident is under investigation. Friday's violence outside the palace, where protesters hurled Molotov cocktails, followed a week of violent protests against Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood party that left at least 50 people dead and hundreds injured.