Torture and beatings reportedly continue in Egypt's prisons

Torture and beatings reportedly continue in Egypt's prisons
Blog: Reports of political prisoners being forced to make confessions tell of dire conditions that detainees continue to face in Egypt's prisons.
4 min read
15 Jul, 2015
Egypt's jails are notorious for allegations of inhumane treatment [AFP]
New allegations of torture in Egypt's prisons have emerged, with victims said to include the prisoners of the "Shura council case".

In November 2013, protesters were arrested outside the Shura council for demonstrating against the proposed trial of civilians in military courts.

The 25 defendants, including prominent activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, initially received sentences of 15 years in June 2014. The sentences were reduced to three to five years by a Cairo criminal court in February.

Two of the detainees - Abdurahmen Sayed and Abdurahmen Tarek - were sentenced to a further three years in prison on Monday after being retried.

Activist reports and accounts by friends of the detainees say that a number of the prisoners have been beaten and at least six have been put into solitary confinement.

According to a new campaign, "Gadaan", set up to support the Shura detainees' rights in prison, their mistreatment worsened after one of the detainees, Salah al-Hiliali protested their dire conditions, and was consequently moved to a "disciplinary cell".

Other detainees complained about Hilali's confinement, as he is elderly and apparently of ill health. Their cell was then stormed by police officers, all personal belongings were confiscated, and the prisoners were reportedly beaten and separated.

The alleged beatings were condemned by Amr Ali, the co-ordinator of the April 6 movement, who called for the case to be investigated by rights groups.
Sohip Saad was allegedly forced
into making a confession [facebook]

Forced confessions

The news concerning the Shura detainees is the latest of reports of mistreatment of political detainees in Egypt's prisons.

Over the weekend, a ministry of defence video was circulated by Egyptian TV channels, showing political detainee Sohip Saad "confessing".

The video was shown with the ministry statement "the biggest terrorist cell to threaten national security [has been caught]".

Sohip, a student, had disappeared along with Esraa el-Taweel and their friend Omar, after the three went for dinner and horseriding in Maadi.

According to recent testimony by Esraa, the young students were bundled into a microbus and blindfolded, before being separated.

Over the weekend, Esraa's sister visited Tora prison and shared details about her sister and friends' detentions.

Corroborating testimonies from other friends, she said that Sohip had been horrendously tortured until he agreed to the public "confession".

The torture apparently involved being hung by his wrists for three days, while being given electric shocks.

"I look around me at all the other prisoners and I keep thinking they must be innocent," wrote Esraa's sister. "I tell myself, if innocent people like Esraa, Omar, and Suhaib are in prison, then the others must be innocent as well."

Sohip had previously been detained for eight months in a maximum security prison, during which he had been on hunger strike and completed his university exams from behind bars.

The charges had been thrown out once - before he was imprisoned again.
Esraa al-Taweel with her cat in Mecca [facebook]

A message from Esraa

Egyptian media outlets this week published an account from 23-year-old student and photojournalist, Esraa el-Taweel, which relayed the details of her disappearance, and the conditions under which she was kept in Qantara prison.

She will remain in the jail for at least another two weeks as her trial continues.

After Esraa's detention, she was kept for 15 days in central security facilities under investigation. She said she heard men "crying loudly" from torture.

During this time, Esraa's whereabouts were unknown, even to her family, and the authorities refused to let her contact them.

Her sister said that Esraa became so desperate that she wrote her parents' contact number in blood on the walls of her cell, so someone might call them should anything happen to her.

"I became hopeless and fell into despair. All that time, I was weeping and crying," Esraa wrote.

"I was feeling that what was happening to me was not real…I was feeling crazy about my family."

Esraa's interrogation was especially difficult, as she attempted to recover from a leg injury - having been shot at a protest in January.

Her father told al-Araby that she had just begun to walk on her own when she disappeared.

"Really, I don't know what danger a young handicapped girl could make to the people of Egypt", her father told al-Araby.

After Esraa was moved from interrogation to Qatara prison, her ordeal continued.

"The prison is very bad and horrible. Whenever I feel exhausted, I fall asleep and get up, horrified, asking, where am I? I feel it is a nightmare. How did all this happen? I want to go to my dad and mum," she wrote.

"Everything here is disgusting and life here is very difficult. I miss my home, my family my friends, my cat Woody. I miss them too much."

Overcrowded cells

Footage has emerged over the past few days of an overcrowded cell in Ain Shams police station. 

Al Jazeera
reported that at least 279 people had died in police custody in Egypt in the last year.

Photographs of prisoners crammed together in a cell in Zayida Zeinib police station also emerged at the end of last month.