Egyptian academic Salah Soltan 'at risk of death', NGOs warn

Egyptian academic Salah Soltan 'at risk of death', NGOs warn
3 min read
05 May, 2023
The health of Salah Soltan, who is currently serving a life sentence at Badr Prison complex, has deteriorated rapidly as a consequence of neglect and possible torture.
Salah Soltan, an Islamic academic, was found guilty of having "connections" to protests against Mohamed Morsi's removal from power [Getty]

51 human rights organisations have called on Egypt to release academic Salah Soltan, who they say is at risk of death.

In a letter published on Wednesday, the groups said that Soltan should be given "immediate access" to life-saving treatment and that his allegations of torture and ill-treatment must be thoroughly investigated.

The deliberate denial of Soltan’s access to healthcare "may amount to torture", the NGOs added.

The letter was backed by global rights watchdog Human Rights Watch.

Soltan, an Islamic scholar who suffers from a number of conditions including diabetes and high blood pressure, was at "imminent risk" of developing serious health complications as a result of the neglect he had suffered at the hands of Egyptian authorities, independent doctors said in letters addressed to Joe Biden’s administration.

The doctors added that the academic was at "risk of a sudden death". Soltan had previously spoken of his conditions in a letter leaked in March this year.

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"On top of railroading him in an unfair trial, Egyptian authorities are deliberately abusing Salah Soltan’s rights by failing to provide him with health care," said Adam Coogle, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

"The authorities should at minimum transfer him to a qualified medical facility where independent health professionals can treat him without hindrance," he added.

Soltan, a 63-year-old dual Egyptian-American national, was arbitrarily detained in Egypt in September 2013.

In September 2017 he was sentenced to life imprisonment in a mass trial that rights groups said violated due process after being convicted of being "linked" to protests against the removal of elected President Mohamed Morsi from power by the Egyptian military in July of the same year.

He is currently being held at Cairo’s Badr Prison complex.

Egypt has been condemned on numerous occasions for putting political opponents and dissidents on trial – often on trumped-up charges – before imprisoning them for long periods of time or sentencing them to death.

Mass trials of political opponents, which often target members of the Islamist opposition, have been regularly condemned by rights group.

Soltan taught Islamic Law at Cairo University, before serving as the president of the Islamic American University in Dearborn, Michigan, between 1999 and 2004.

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His son, prominent activist Mohamed Soltan, previously filed a lawsuit against the Egyptian state for crimes against humanity in 2020, accusing them of torturing and detaining him in 2013.

The younger Soltan was deported by Cairo in 2015, while his father remained in custody, before being imprisoned.

In March this year, the Cairo Institute of Human Rights, alongside other NGOs, said they believe that Soltan’s treatment at the Cairo prison is in "retaliation" for his son’s work in human rights.

The groups have urged the US to call on Egypt to release him and to seek urgent treatment for his health conditions.