- December 11, 2015
- 13 minutes read
Torture, Slow Death in Egypt Junta’s Aqrab Prison
"Tombs for the living!" This is the most ‘moderate’ description of Aqrab (Scorpion) Prison cells. Unlike humans who die the simple one death, detainees in this prison taste the bitterness of death over and over again, from the untold unbearable horrors and pains they suffer every day at the hands of merciless jailers entirely stripped of humanity.
A picture of Dr. Saad Katatni, Speaker of the elected Egyptian Parliament, being circulated widely over the internet, shows how he lost a lot of weight, his face fatigued, lined and aged – during a recent court session. This frightened everyone, and caused angry reactions against coup prison administration, because the picture highlighted the massive violations, torture, neglect and inhuman conditions suffered by Aqrab prison detainees.
In fact, the flagrant violations committed by Aqrab prison administration against the detainees forced their families to launch appeals for help to save them from inhuman treatment and violations that prevent them from obtaining even their most basic needs and threaten the lives of many of them.
Of these violations, Salma Ashraf (Egyptian Affairs Director of the international organization Human Rights Monitor (HRM)) said Aqrab Prison detainees and inmates suffer the most abuse and violations in prison compared to other places of detention and incarceration, pointing that some detainees spend more than two years in solitary confinement, contrary to minimum standards and rules for prisons and prisoners.
Winter clothes and blankets banned
The Families of Aqrab Detainees Association (FADA) published on its social networking websites details of wholesale violations against detainees in the notorious prison, affirming they are forced to wear summer clothes, as prison management bans winter clothing or blankets, despite the very cold weather with the onset of winter, which amounts to willful killing of inmates – slowly.
FADA said cells are specifically designed to prevent entry of any sunshine at all, with walls and floors made of concrete and cement, which increases the suffering of detainees in cold winters.
Absurdly, winter clothing and blankets were in fact permitted last winter, where detainees were allowed to receive them from their families. Evidently, this means authorities double their vindictive violations and crimes against incarcerated opponents in an unprecedented deliberate manner.
Mass extrajudicial killings by medical neglect
Deliberate medical neglect led to the death of dozens of Aqrab detainees, who live in dark cells with no health care whatsoever.
Detainees who died in Aqrab Prison include:
– Imad Hassan, member of the Muslim Brotherhood, who died as a result of authorities preventing him from receiving essential medicines. Hassan developed stomach cancer in Aqrab, and the prison administration refused him life-saving surgery, in the prison hospital or in an external hospital at his family’s expense.
– Mohamed Saeed, accused in an Ansar Al-Maqdis "Supporters of Jerusalem) case, who died as a result of medical neglect.
– Farid Ismail, member of the Freedom and Justice Party.
– Essam Derbala, Chairman of the Shura Council of the Jamaa Islamiya group; as well as Morgan Salem, Nabil Maghrebi, and many others.
Reports from families of 12 Aqrab detainees stressed they suffered critical health conditions in detention, including Justice Mahmoud Khudairi, former deputy head of the Court of Cassation; Magdy Qorqor and Magdy Hussein, leading members of Istiqlal Party; and Rashad Bayoumi, member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Guidance Bureau. Coup authorities have neither confirmed nor denied this.
Rape, sexual harassment, electric shocks and threats to rape detainees’ wives
HRM received many desperate pleas from families of Aqrab Prison detainees about vicious violations, humiliation and abuse of ward H1 inmates, who are routinely beaten with sticks and batons and repeated electric shocks all over their bodies, especially private parts and sensitive places, with detainees suspended on concrete walls for long hours, sometimes even several days, to force them to sign false confessions. These torture routines killed more than 200 detainees.
An Aqrab detainee pointed in his testimony to HRM that many inmates were viciously raped – not just sexually assaulted – by prison officers and wardens. Sometimes, those officers would force detainees to crouch on all fours like animals, then they pushed batons in detainees’ anuses to torture and humiliate them.
According to HRM, Aqrab Prison administration injustice against detainees reached the heinous extent of threatening to rape detainees’ wives, mothers and daughters in their presence, if any of them uttered a single word about the violations they suffer.
Intransigence and restrictions on visits and food bans
HRM also documented the suffering of detainees’ families during visits, where prison management ban foods and life-saving medicines brought by visiting families to their incarcerated loved ones. They also suffer long waits in long lines, repeated insults and searches that border on sexual assault.
Detainees’ families are also not allowed to hug or embrace their loved ones, with tough glass barriers between them, they can only talk to them using monitored telephones. Visits were banned altogether since last Ramadan (June 2015) – for no specific reason.
Indeed, the sanctity of the holy month of Ramadan did not stop these violations. On the contrary, those intensified, with more deliberate brutality, with all visits banned indefinitely – as mentioned above, and detainees denied any breakfast or supper on time, while quantities of foods were significantly reduced.
In fact, detainees had to do with only one meal a day. Even worse, meals were banned completely for three days, just after the assassination of the Public Prosecutor. This resulted in a significant deterioration in the health of detainees, especially those who were already ill. Moreover, hand-watches were taken away from prisoners, to prevent them from knowing sunset or sunrise times.
In addition to this, prison management offers detainees food unfit for human consumption, without salt, after starving detainees for several days. This drained the health of sick detainees, while others suffered pains in bones and teeth due to the lack of salt.
HRM also documented how detainees’ families suffered repeated threats of immediate extrajudicial killing. Prison officers bragged about how security forces killed 9 opposition leaders – from the Muslim Brotherhood – in an apartment (a few months ago), and threatened visiting families they would suffer the same fate.
Badie and Beltagy viciously attacked
Hoda Abdel Moneim, human rights activist, revealed that Dr. Mohamed Badie, Muslim Brotherhood Chairman; Dr. Mohamed Beltagy, Muslim Brotherhood leader; and Dr. Mohamed Wahdan, member of the group’s Guidance Bureau, had been assaulted by a police officer, when Dr. Beltagy was about to drink a glass of water (he had been fasting) during a trial session. The police officer in charge of transferring them from Aqrab Prison beat Dr. Beltagy and threw away the glass of water so he could not break his fast. When Dr. Badie objected to his behavior, the officer hit him in his side, chest and abdomen, while he was in handcuffs. Then, Dr. Wahdan reproached the police officer, so he was beaten up and injured in his shoulder by the same officer.
Hunger strike punishment
In a distress message from an Aqrab detainee, he said frequent vicious violations made them "living dead", which forced them to start a hunger strike in protest at the situation. In response, the prison administration stormed the cells and moved out all the hunger strikers, including Mossaad Abu Zeid (a severely-disabled, paralyzed detained) and handcuffed their hands behind their backs and beat them.
The message said that Mossaad Abu Zeid is still in hospital until now, but no-one knows anything about his condition. It is certain, however, that he is on the verge of death, because the prison management does not transfer any one to hospital until and unless they are very seriously ill. The author of the distress message is himself in intensive care. Four other detainees are with him, lying there motionless.