Egypt: Prisoner hunger strikes expose the interior ministry’s propaganda
A number of prisoners of conscience in Egypt have started a hunger strike in protest at the violations they are exposed to and their poor living conditions inside their prison, as well as the unlimited extension of their pretrial detention and the unjust sentences issued against them.
The undersigned organizations and campaigns warn that the lives of those on hunger strikes are now at risk.
Journalist Hisham Fouad, political activist Ahmed Badawy, and detainee Ola Al-Qaradawi have announced their hunger strike this week in protest against their continued pretrial detention for more than two years without trial. Ola Al-Qaradawi spent four years in pretrial detention – which is two years more than the maximum period stipulated in Egyptian law for pretrial detention.
A master’s student at the Central European University (CEU) in Austria, Ahmed Santawy, also announced his hunger strike, following the ruling of the Emergency State Security Court, on June 22, to imprison him for four years and fine him EGP 500 for “spreading false news from outside the country about the internal situation”. This particular court has no other degrees of litigation.
The organizations said that journalist Hisham Fouad is imprisoned in connection with Case No. 930 of 2019, known in the media as the “Hope Cell”. A judge has decided to renew Fouad’s detention for another 45 days, which is the twenty-fifth renewal for him in the case, since his imprisonment in June 2019, despite the fact that the Code of Criminal Procedure stipulates a maximum period of two years for pretrial detention.
Egyptian security forces arrested the activist Ahmed Badawy, on April 21, 2019, on the second day of voting on the latest constitutional amendments while he was standing alone in Fatima Al-Sharbatly Square in the Fifth Settlement in Cairo holding a sign reading “No to constitutional amendments.” After seven days of his disappearance during his interrogation at the Supreme State Security Prosecution in connection with Case No. 746 of 2019, he appeared at a hearing and the prosecution charged him with “joining a terrorist group, and using an account on social media networks to commit a legally punishable crime that threatens the security and safety of society.” He is still held in custody until now.
Egyptian security forces arrested Ola Al-Qaradawi and her husband on June 30, 2017. They were then charged with “affiliation to a group established in violation of the law, planning to carry out terrorist operations targeting security and state institutions, and financing that group.” In July 2019, the Cairo Criminal Court decided to release Ola with probationary measures. However, the prosecution decided to imprison her in connection with a new case only hours later, and her detention has been renewed periodically since then, amid fears that she will be added to a third case.
Meanwhile, a master’s student, Ahmed Santawy, was arrested in February after returning to Cairo on vacation. The Fifth Settlement Police Department summoned him after raiding his family’s house a few days before, and he went to surrender himself. He was then held by the State Security Prosecution in connection with case No. 65 for the year. 2021, before being added later to Case No. 877 of 2021, on May 22, for which he was referred to the Emergency State Security Court, which issued the ruling against him.
The undersigned organizations point out that the activists mentioned above were subjected to several violations. Journalist Hisham Fouad faced severe intransigence by the State Security Emergency Prosecution during his interrogation, as he was interrogated about videos attributed to him outside the framework of the case for which he was arrested, some even date back to 2012 and 2016. In addition, the prosecution’s insistence on renewing Fouad’s detention despite the expiration of his pretrial detention period is another evidence of the extent of the intransigence and abuse that the prosecution, which is supposed to be a neutral party, has reached.
The undersigned organizations added that the political activist, Ahmed Badawi, was also subjected to many violations, including enforced disappearance, physical and moral coercion. This was proven in the investigations of the Public Prosecution, which did not take any action to investigate these allegations. Badawi was arbitrarily and illegally detained in the National Security headquarters attached to the Fifth Settlement Police Station. He was denied contact with his family or lawyer, and was interrogated by National Security officers for four hours. He remained blindfolded and handcuffed throughout his enforced disappearance, which extended for seven days.
While the UN Panel on Arbitrary Detention has acknowledged that Ms. Ola Al-Qaradawi and her husband are being held unlawfully in clear violation of international law, the panel also concluded that “Ola and Husam’s ordeal in prison consisted of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” and referred their case to the Special Rapporteur on torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
The organizations reported that Ahmed Santawy was also subjected to enforced disappearance from February 1 to 6th, 2021, during which he was beaten by members of the National Security Sector while he was handcuffed and blindfolded at the Fifth Settlement Police Station.
The organizations considered the Egyptian Ministry of Interior’s claims regarding the alleged provision of all aspects of care to prison inmates, especially health care, as propaganda that the Egyptian Ministry of Interior has become addicted to in an attempt to improve its image before civil and international society, and to obliterate the violations committed against detainees.
The organizations pointed out that despite all this propaganda by Egyptian authorities, the reality and the numbers of violations observed render these allegations baseless. During the first quarter of 2021, a report by one of the organizations participating in the campaign monitored 1962 violations inside prisons and detention centers in Egypt.
These violations were topped by arbitrary deprivation of liberty – by about 59 per cent (1166/1962), followed by enforced disappearance and poor conditions of detention by about 17 per cent for each (336 and 335 violations, respectively), then torture by 5.5 per cent (108 /1962), and deaths in detention facilities by 0.9 per cent (18/1962). The numbers refute the allegations of Egyptian authorities and reflect the deteriorating conditions inside prisons and places of detention.
The undersigned organizations call on Egyptian authorities to provide adequate health care for the activists on hunger strikes to preserve their right to life. They also urge the government not to delay their release by extending their pretrial detention or passing judgments against them through trials that lack the minimum standards for an internationally recognized fair trial and to stop violating the provisions of the law and the constitution.
The organizations also asked the Egyptian Ministry of Interior to deal with the reality in all transparency and clarity, and to work to stop violations against their detainees, punish those responsible, and find solutions to the problems faced by detainees, while trying to find common ground with Egyptian and international civil society organizations, to support Egyptian human rights.
The organizations also called on the international community not to overlook these violations in Egypt, and to send a message to the authorities there that supporting and protecting basic human rights is important to communicate with international economic and political mechanisms.
-Article 55 Campaign
-Their Right Campaign (Haqohom)
-Voice of Dungeons (Sawt el-Zenzanah) Platform
-The Egyptian Center for the Right to Education