Prisoners report human rights abuses, begin hunger-strike

Wednesday 09-12-2015 04:52 PM
Prisoners report human rights abuses, begin hunger-strike

Egyptian army soldiers guard with armoured personnel carriers (APC) in front of the main gate of Torah prison on the outskirts of Cairo, August 22, 2013. Reuters/Louafi Larbi


By Gehad Abaza

CAIRO, Dec. 9 (Aswat Masriya) - Prisoners at the notorious Al-Aqrab prison have started a hunger strike citing abuse and torture, in claims which prison authorities have denied Wednesday.

A group of approximately 24 prisoners at Cairo's Al-Aqrab maximum security prison's wing 3 H3 had announced last Thursday that they started a full hunger strike in protest at "inhumane conditions," according to Human Rights Monitor.   

Since the beginning of winter the detainees say that they have also been forbidden any blankets or clothes from outside the prison, the Coalition for the Families of Al-Qrab Detainees said in a statement. 

When they began the hunger strike, the prison administration "proceeded to beat and torture the hunger striking prisoners," the Coalition said, adding that 25 of the injured have not been allowed any medical care.

The families also say they have not been allowed to visit their imprisoned relatives for over two months. 

A source from the prison authority who preferred to remain anonymous, however, denied to Aswat Masriya in a statement today, Wednesday, that any prisoners, specifically those belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, have been subjected to torture. 

"The prisoners' families are simly trying to create chaos ahead of the anniversary of the January 25 uprising to inflame public opnion," said the police source.

He added that the Interior Ministry is examining all the photograghs that have been circulating on social media to prove that those who published them are "liars", adding that meals are being disbursed regularly and that family visits are taking place according to schedule.

But this is not the picture painted by the prisoners themselves.

"Ask them about our weakened bodies, our sunken eyes, our rotting clothes and bare feet," one prisoner, whose name was not disclosed for his personal safety, wrote in a leaked letter. 

"We live in cells without light, without enough food, no healthcare, one blanket for each prisoner, and sometimes none at all... Even slippers are not allowed and medicines for chronic diseases are taken away from the detainees," the prisoner wrote. 

This is only part of the "everyday killing" that detainees inside the maximum security prison face on a regular basis, he continued.

"I do not know whether people are distressed by our calls for help, or whether they have become used to the horror stories coming out of Al-Aqrab."

The prisoners also called on human rights organizations to intervene to stop the prison administration from further human rights abuses.  

The state-affiliated National Council for Human Rights made an inspection visit to the Al-Aqrab prison last August releasing a report on conditions shortly after.

The report was condemned by various political and rights groups as "biased", that the visit was carefully choreographed and was not comprehensive. 

In its monthly report published early September, El Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture and Violence documented 56 deaths inside Egypt's detention facilities, 57 torture cases, 44 cases of medical negligence and 38 cases of enforced disappearances in August alone.

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