A new victim of al-Sisi’s prisons: Senior Egyptian politician Essam el-Erian dies in the Scorpion

Essam el-Erian is not the first leader of the Muslim Brotherhood who died in his prison cell at the high-security and notorious Scorpion Prison (south of Cairo) due to medical negligence, but he was the most prominent. While local media affiliated with the Egyptian regime said that el-Erian died of a “heart attack,” Egyptian opposition leaders and human rights sources accused the authorities of “intentionally killing him” by neglecting his treatment.

The opposition demonstrates its accusations by what el-Erian himself said in one of his court sessions, when he spoke to the judge about himself as a model for cases of neglect of health care. He explained that he was infected with hepatitis C in prison and requested permission to receive treatment at the Liver Institute. Still, the prison authorities informed him that National Security had refused to send him to the hospital.

El-Erian, born in Giza Governorate (west of Cairo), on April 28, 1954, and who obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Medicine and Surgery in 1977, was one of the most prominent people in the Brotherhood, and one of the leaders with a strong influence on its ideology over the past three decades.

El-Erian was interested in student activities, so he was elected President of the General Union of Egyptian University Students. He was secretary of the Cultural Committee of the Cairo Medical Students Union, between 1972 and 1977.

Youngest parliamentarian

This early interest later made him the youngest member of parliament from 1987 to 1990 for the Imbaba district, but the parliament was dissolved before completing its constitutional term. Joining the Brotherhood helped him enter public work and he was elected to the board of directors of the Egyptian Medical Syndicate, which includes 120,000 doctors, in 1986.

El-Erian held several leadership positions in the Egyptian Medical Syndicate, most notably the Assistant Secretary-General for several years. He was a member of many civil society organisations and Islamic entities, including the Arab and National Islamic Conference, the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights, the Guidance Office of the Brotherhood. Finally, el-Erian held the position of Vice President of the Freedom and Justice Party, which was established by the Muslim Brotherhood after the January 25, 2011, revolution.

El-Erian has participated in many scientific and intellectual seminars and conferences inside and outside Egypt, as well as contributed to many research papers in various scientific activities. In addition to his writing in several local and Arab newspapers and magazines on various topics, especially Islamic affairs and Egyptian and Arab politics, he obtained a BA in Sharia and Law from al-Azhar University. He also got a BA in Tajweed Sciences, and he also got a high degree in Islamic Law from al-Azhar University.

In addition to an interest in political activities, el-Erian obtained a Master of Clinical Pathology, and a Bachelor of Law from Cairo University, with a very good general grade. He also got a Bachelor of Arts from the History Department from Cairo University in 2000, with a very good general degree.

Frequent arrests

Since his involvement in public work, el-Erian has been arrested more than once. The beginning was before the assassination of the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. He was detained for only one year, from the beginning of September 1981 until the end of August 1982. He was released under a presidential pardon issued by the late President Hosni Mubarak when he became president. The second time he was arrested in 1995 on charges of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, he spent a lengthy sentence at that time that lasted for almost five years until 2000 based on the decisions of the military court, which issued a hard labour ruling against him. In 2005, he faced the third arrest in his history, for five months, for the same charge, from May until October of the same year.

On the morning of May 18, 2006, he was arrested (a fourth time) for his participation in pro-judge demonstrations in Cairo, until he was released on December 10 of the same year. He faced arrest (a fifth time) in July 2007 for his participation in some protests that angered the regime at the time, but he was released in October of the same year. With the January 2011 revolution, he found himself behind prison walls, again, just before the Friday of Rage on January 28, 2011, before he was released on the morning of January 29, 2011. As for the seventh and final time, el-Erian was arrested on October 30, 2013, in the wake of the military coup against the late President Mohamed Morsi.

El-Erian was a supporter of the January 2011 revolution, and eager to complete its goals. On June 6, 2011, the Muslim Brotherhood established a political arm called the Freedom and Justice Party, headed by Morsi and the party’s deputy secretary el-Erian. El-Erian headed the Foreign Relations Committee in the first parliament to be held after the January 25 revolution, and reached the membership of President Morsi’s advisory body, before resigning from it due to the difficulty of combining his role in parliament with his responsibilities as an advisor to the president.

A tragic death

One of el-Erian’s lawyers said that his family had not seen him since last September, for more than 11 months. Eleven months before that, el-Erian appeared in the previous court session when a ruling was issued against him in the case known in the media as “communication with Hamas.” He stressed that none of el-Erian’s family knew anything about the status of him in prison before his death.

According to the source: “That was the last time we saw him, and since then [we have] been completely cut off, and we do not know whether during that period he suffered any health crises or not, at a time when he suffers from several diseases resulting from the prison conditions.”