Opposition, Rights Groups Question Gov’t Statements Over Number of Detainees
Opposition, Rights Groups Question Gov’t Statements Over Number of Detainees
Thursday, January 31,2008 09:36
By Duaa Abdul Raouf
Egyptian Interior Minister, Habib Al-Adli, raised eyebrows of many people when he said during the Police Day celebrations that the number of political detainees in Egypt is no more than 1633 detainees and that the estimations of Human Rights Organizations around the number of detainees are so much exaggerated. He said also that any detention is carried out upon valid justifications and upon a decision from him directly and that such a detention can be challenged before justice and is accordingly under judicial supervision.
These statements raised a debate among opposition powers and human rights groups in Egypt, specially after news that the Interior Ministry has reportedly rounded up only last week, 1000 Muslim Brotherhood members following a demonstration calling for lifting the siege imposed on Gaza .
Commenting on Al-Adli"s statements, Mohsen Bahnasi, chairman of the Cairo-based Organization for Human Rights Legal Aid, confirmed in statements to Ikhwanweb, that the statement of the Interior Minister over the number of prisoners of conscience are inaccurate, because it isn"t based on records of the prison administration which can give the real number of detainees.
Mohsen called on the Interior Minister to show the Egyptian public opinion the number of detainees from records of prisons and to clarify why they were detained. Bahnasi attributed this confusion in the number of detainees to the fact that there is a lack of public prosecution"s supervision over detention premises, specially prisons of the State Security Investigations.
Mohsen Bahnasi added that the numbers announced by human rights organizations are true due to the fact that the Interior Ministry did not give anything to prove the opposite although it has documented details about these detainees and refuses to make them public. To prove his point, Mohsen cited the number of appeals filed by these detainees to the criminal justice (up to 400 appeals a day). This means that the number of detainees is up to at least 12000.
Montaser Al Zayyat, a member of the bar association"s board, said that the number of the detainees is more or less near, and may be a little more than, the number stated by Al Adli. Al Zayyat pointed out that this number declared by Al Adli does not include Muslim Brotherhood detainees because they were detained and released in a short period of time, a few months.
He said also the process of counting the number of detainees is very difficult. It first appeared in the black period (of the 1960s) until the 1990s, during which detentions were carried out and the Interior Ministry wasn"t implementing acquittals and releases ordered by courts and it hasn"t been declaring the real number of detainees. This actually made human rights organizations and research offices depend on mostly inaccurate data made available by the office of the detainees affairs.
Adel Mikki, lawyer and executive manager of the Cairo-based Human Rights Association for the Assistance of Prisoners, said that predicting the real number of detainees has become very difficult due to the policy of secrecy imposed by the Interior Ministry on such data. Mikki saw that the Interior Ministry"s justifications for not announcing the number of detainees are completely illogical.
For his part, Dr. Mohamed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) Executive Bureau, called on the Egyptian government to cancel the law according to which such detentions have been carried out. He also called for releasing all prisoners of conscience, stressing that the emergency law, imposed since 1981 until now, has paralyzed all sections of the society including civil institutions and political powers.
He added also that the increasing detentions have its toll on the freedom of thought and lead to the emergence of weak parliaments that don"t represent people and lead also to a deterioration n the political, cultural and social aspects of the society in Egypt.