Released detainees reveal Egypt's 'gruesome' torture tactics
Egyptian authorities heavily beat inmates, placed them in cells without sufficient ventilation and did not offer them enough clean water or edible food, according to interviews conducted by the US newspaper.
Egypt's human rights record is regularly condemned by human rights groups who estimate that there are approximately 60,000 political prisoners in Egypt with many facing abuse, torture, and neglect.
President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has overseen a harsh crackdown against government opponents ever since coming to power in a 2013 military coup.
Political activist Hassan Barbary, 46, said he was beaten, electrocuted, and denied access to a toilet, in addition to being forced into a false confession that he belonged to an organisation which helped to organise Egypt’s 2011 revolution against longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak.
"I was given two bottles, one to drink from and another to pee in," he told the Wall Street Journal, and added that guards told him he would never see the sun again and put him in a cell with violent inmates who beat him until he bled.
"Our lives as detainees were worthless… It’s like we were a bunch of chickens," Mohamed Ramadan, a political activist who spent over three years behind bars before being released in July, said.
Ramadan, 47, said he witnessed the death of two fellow prisoners, who appeared to suffer heart attacks after being medically neglected by prison authorities.
Detainees interviewed also said prison authorities denied family visits, leisure time and medical care, and that upon entry into a prison facility they would be beaten by two rows of officers.
Government spokesman Diaa Rashwan however, said "there are no systematic violations" of human rights in Egyptian prisons, but what he called "mistakes" could occur.
Egypt has released around 660 political prisoners since April, but arrested 1,200 new people on political grounds, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Political analysts believe the upcoming COP27 summit in Sharm el Sheikh and a weakening economy in the country were the reasons behind authorities' decision to release detainees.