Abdel Fotouh takes scant breaths within the four walls of his cell

Ahmed Gamal
July 4, 2019

The prominent political opponent and former presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh talked to Al Jazeera in February 2018 to express his own perspective on Egypt after state media closed off all forms of expression. The number of his critics has increased since then, whether they were defenders of the authorities accusing him of treason, or those who wish the downfall of the military-backed authority to restore legitimacy. The latter have not forgotten his support for the June 30 protests.

As usual, a lawyer took legal action and filed a report to the Public Prosecutor and to the State Security Prosecution that Fotouh intentionally offended the state, the President and the judiciary and had called on foreign powers to intervene in Egyptian domestic affairs. The prosecutor responded immediately and arrested him. Since then, he hasn’t left solitary confinement except to be interrogated inside a soundproof glass cage. A month after his arrest, he and his son were listed on a terrorist list.

In 2015, Fotouh released an initiative to resolve the political situation, but he didn’t receive any reply from the Egyptian authorities or even the media. In that initiative, he demanded a restructuring of the Interior Ministry in order to uphold human rights and protect Egypt from terrorism as a preliminary stage to hold an open, early presidential election within a year. He also demanded the immediate release of students, women, elderly and whoever has health problems. The initiative included the demand of a serious review of political prisoners and releasing or granting amnesty to all the leaders of opposing political movements.

In 2018, Aboul Fotouh signed the statement of civil forces that called for boycotting the presidential elections of March 2018.

Life at risk

“My father is under the threat of losing his life at any moment. Today, while we were waiting to visit him, he had a heart attack. After he took the medication, he got better. Then, we visited him and he told us that he had a heart attack now and another one last night; two heart attacks within 24 hours because of the inhumane conditions and the intended punishment,” wrote Ahmed Abdel Fotouh, son of Abdel Fotouh, on Facebook. 

It wasn’t the first time that his son has spoken out in a bid to save his father from the fate the late President Mohamed Morsi suffered. On June 18, his father told him he had angina pectoris which could be fatal. Then, security authorities refused to let him be examined medically, placed him in solitary confinement and prevented him from going outside to exercise.

Moreover, Fotouh is suffering from benign prostatic hyperplasia and surgery had been scheduled before his arrest in February 2018. Alongside the medical neglect, the hyperplasia has worsened, resulting in severe congestion. It has had a negative effect on his kidneys and bladder causing pain when he urinates.

Aboul Fotouh is also suffering from diabetes and he has had hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia fits. In detention it’s difficult to maintain the ideal glucose level because of the lack of healthy food and opportunities for exercise.

Fotouh had a spinal disc herniation which the prison doctor examined and recommended regular physical therapy sessions for. However, Fotouh couldn’t get these sessions because he was prevented from entering the physical therapy room inside the prison, which has affected his ability to move comfortably. It was obvious when he went before the State Security Prosecution as he was wheelchair bound and wearing a medical back belt to ease the pain.

Human rights demands ignored by the government

The case of Fotouh is well-known to international and local human rights organisations due to a number of statements being issued demanding the release of a prominent figure who doesn’t support violence and seeks peaceful solutions.

The Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights and Adalah Centre for Rights and Freedoms have filed a report to the Public Prosecutor Nabil Sadek, No. 8840/ 2019, requesting swift intervention to save Fotouh. The report raised the issue of “deliberate medical neglect” which is contrary to the prisons regulation act and the Nelson Mandela Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. Fotouh’s treatment has violated the Egyptian constitution, article 18: “every citizen is entitled to health and to comprehensive health care.”

In June 2018, the advocate general of the State Security Prosecution himself looked into the medical status of Fotouh. The advocate general released a decision to conduct an MRI scan and the required examinations on his heart, lung, stomach and bones in the prison’s hospital or outside, in case of poor equipment in the prison hospital, but nothing happened.

The Tora Prison administration refused to implement the prosecutor’s decision, and instead dispatched a group of doctors affiliated to the Interior Ministry to examine him. They allegedly conducted a diagnosis inside the cell, and filed a report concluding that his health status is stable. This step was an intention to torture him, of medical neglect and prevention from receiving the necessary health care. This is a crime according to article 123 of penal law.