Images of an Egyptian protester who was stripped naked, dragged through the street and beaten with batons by helmeted riot police have inflamed passions in a country already at the boiling point.
Over a dozen police officers can be seen swarming around Hamada Saber, 50, as the battered protester is violently dragged to an armored vehicle not far from the Presidential Palace in Cairo.
In the pictures, Saber was then placed prostrate on the ground before being flipped over and pummeled by a half-dozen baton-wielding police officers. He is currently undergoing treatment in a police hospital in Cairo.
Footage of the incident was broadcast live on television during Friday night protests against Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, sending shockwaves throughout a country already beleaguered by mounting unrest.
Riot police were deployed around the Presidential Palace on Saturday as Egyptian authorities anticipated violence would flare up in the wake of the incendiary footage.
On Saturday, protesters lobbed stones and bottles at a motorcade carrying Prime Minister Hisham Qandil as he attempted to enter Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
The office of President Morsi condemned the “inhumane” beating in a statement released on Saturday: “The presidency was pained by the shocking footage of some policemen treating a protester in a manner that does not accord with human dignity and human rights,” Al Arabiya quoted the statement as saying.
Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim has ordered an investigation to “hold accountable” the officers involved, whose conduct he described as “regrettable” and “unacceptable.”
The opposition National Salvation Front (NSF) were not placated by Ibrahim’s response, and demanded that he step down.
“The horrible and degrading images showing the central security officers and police beating and dragging a naked man near the presidential palace should lead to the interior minister’s immediate resignation,” said Khalid Dawoud, spokesperson for the National Salvation Front (NSF), according to Gulf News.
Such a case “cannot be resolved by a simple apology from the minister,” Dawoud added.
Later on Saturday, the NSF released a statement with a decidedly harder line, demanding that Morsi stand trial for “killings and torture,” SAPA reports.
"The Salvation Front completely sides with the people and its active forces' calls to topple the authoritarian regime and the Muslim Brotherhood's control," the NSF said, though they urged the protesters to remain peace.
The opposition coalition further ruled out dialogue with the authorities until "the bloodletting stops and those responsible for it are held accountable."
Morsi, who had previously warned that security forces would handle violent protesters with “utmost decisiveness,” blamed the demonstrators for inciting the violent response by attempting to level the palace gates and scale its walls.
Another protester was shot dead on Friday and more than 100 were injured, many seriously, amid running street battles between police and demonstrators, who attacked the presidential palace with Molotov cocktails.
The image of the prone man being beaten have particular resonance with Egyptians, as it bore a painful resemblance to the 'girl in the blue bra' beating in December 20011.
The veil-covered woman had her hands raised above her head as three soldiers subdued her and opened her black abaya cloak, stomping on her naked torso. The images came to epitomize the battle between pro-democracy protesters and the doomed regime of former President Hosni Mubarak.
The recent disturbances in Egypt followed the second anniversary of the January 25 revolution that ousted Mubarak. Dozens have been killed and hundreds injured in eight days of violence.
In order to use modern and more humane practices and tactics when dealing with civilians, Egyptian security forces require a deep reorganization and some people “need to be dismissed,” political activist Yasser Ismail told RT.
“The top echelon of the police is still there with the same tactics they learned through the dictatorship of Mubarak,” he explained. “The people were working and trained under Mubarak for 30 years. They are running from the same [Standard Operating Procedures] books, they run the same protocols. This is the only way they know to do it.”