The Egyptian authorities launched intense searches of inmates in prisons, especially in Tora’s central prison area. This campaign included stripping the detainees’ belongings and allowing very few blankets and clothes. This campaign came in the wake of the Egyptian authorities announcing the killing of 4 detainees, claiming that they had tried to escape from the high-security Scorpion prison.
Egyptian detainees told Egypt Watch that the Prisons Authority intensified the stripping campaigns inside Tora Reception Prison and took from the detainees all the electric heaters they used to prepare food, spoons, cups, and cooking tools and razors. The Prisons Authority only allowed very few pieces of clothes and blankets that don’t protect from the winter cold. Human rights organizations said that the searches and stripping of belongings included other prisons in Tora, including Scorpion and several other prisons.
The families of the Egyptian detainees expressed their fears that their relatives might suffer from severe cold. One detainee’s wife confirmed that her husband used to turn on the electric heaters in the cold nights, trying to keep the cell warm. One detainees’ father said that the prison administration refuses to bring in heavy blankets and only allows light blankets that do not protect them from the harsh winter. The stripping of blankets and electric heaters for the detainees means that they will not be able to eat hot meals or warm themselves up. In January 2020, the detained Egyptian journalist Mahmoud Abdel-Majeed Mahmoud Saleh died due to suffering the severe cold.
Human rights activists in Egypt have said that the Egyptian detainee, Mahmoud Abdel Majeed Mahmoud Saleh, died in his cell in the notorious Scorpion wing of Tora Prison, south of Cairo, as a result of medical negligence and severe cold. Mahmoud Abdel Majeed Saleh, 46, born on October 14, 1973, worked in the field of media, printing, and publishing, and is the eldest child. During his detention, his mother died in 2015 from grief, according to social media pages related to political detainees in Egypt. Mahmoud Abdel Majeed has four children, the eldest is called Nadia and is in the third secondary class, then Noor al-Din is in the first secondary class, and after him, Abdel Majeed is in the first grade preparatory, and the youngest, Suhaila, in the fifth grade of elementary school.
Human rights activists say that the prison administration has prevented the entry of blankets and winter clothes for political detainees and left them to suffer the cold in the winter. According to former detainees in the notorious Scorpion wing, the cells are poorly ventilated, but their windows with iron bars do not close, and the humidity rises, and they become refrigerators in the winter.
Mahmoud Abdel Majeed was not in a critical medical condition, but the severe cold claimed his life, according to human rights activists. The prison administration did not transfer him to the hospital, in short: “They let him die in the cold.” Thee detainees’ families fear that the new Egyptian measures may leave thousands of political detainees vulnerable to Mahmoud’s fate.