Egypt's Scorpion prison - worse than Guantanamo Bay

Egypt's Scorpion prison - worse than Guantanamo Bay
Comment: Conditions for inmates inside one of Egypt's most notorious prisons are inhumane and deteriorating, says Khalil al-Anani.
3 min read
05 May, 2015
Prison visits have been banned for the 20th day in a row [Getty]

Conditions at one of Egypt's most notorious prisons, if not its most infamous, are deteriorating according to the families of inmates.

Scorpion prison in Tora is a maximum-security facility used for political prisoners, who include Muslim Brotherhood and April 6 leaders, as well as political activists such as Alaa Abdel-Fattah.

The son of a Muslim Brotherhood leader currently held in the prison said his father was being kept in an underground cell without ventilation.

His father is also being denied access to medicine for a serious medical condition, as well as papers, books, the Quran, or a watch. During the winter he was forced to sleep on the floor without covers.

Mona Seif, Alaa Abdel Fattah's sister, says prisoners are abused and tortured, and their families are routinely humiliated. Visits are allowed from behind glass barriers.

According to Seif, since Magdi Abdel-Ghaffar became interior minister in March, prison visitors have been banned, and there are restrictions on food or gifts that can be sent.

     Prison visits have been banned, and there are restrictions on food or gifts that can be sent to prisoners inside.

Members of an association set up for families of prisoners in Tora, told the website Al-Masriyoun: "When Abdel-Ghaffar took over the prison was thoroughly searched for three days. The prison administration confiscated blankets families had brought to their relatives, medicines were withheld, and only small and very limited amounts of food were allowed in."

Khaled al-Masri, lawyer and activist, wrote in a Facebook post a week ago that visits to the prison had been banned for the 20th day in a row.

Scorpion prison was opened in 1993 and based on US high security facilities. Its construction was supervised by former interior minister Habib al-Adli. Most inmates were Islamists and many were tortured - sometimes to death according to several testimonies.

The prison was also used in the US abduction and torture programme of the last decade.

According to a report by Hassan al-Talili from Monte Carlo Doualiya, a French Arabic-speaking radio station, Egyptian human rights groups called for the prison to be closed after the 25 January 2011 revolution against Hosni Mubarak.

Talili's report said the prison symbolised extreme levels of unlawful and inhumane treatment of detainees: insects were let into narrow cells, torture techniques involved the genitals, and there were incidents of sexual assault, charges were fabricated, and those detained for political dissent were accused of terrorism.

However, the prison was not closed after the revolution that toppled Mubarak.

In many ways conditions at the prison are worse than Guantanamo Bay.

In the latter, under pressure from international human rights groups detainees had some basic rights, including to recreation, medical care, reading material, and to correspond with their families through the Red Cross.

In Egypt, most if not all these things are banned, despite being guaranteed by Egyptian prison regulations before recent amendments.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.