In Egypt, detainees go on hunger strike to save their families

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The situation in Egypt is completely different from what is happening in the rest of the world. Instead of the solidarity of free men outside prison, solidarity has arisen in Egypt from those who are languishing in detention with those outside it. This is not a joke; rather, it is a painful reality after the announcement of the detained political activist Abd al-Rahman Tariq, known as Mokka, in a letter published by several human rights defenders.

In the message, Mokka said that he has been on a hunger strike since the beginning of last December to save his family and friends the high cost of visiting. He wrote in his letter, “I am the only breadwinner for my family, which has suffered greatly. In early December, I decided to go on a hunger strike after being stranded and losing hope about justice on earth.” He pointed out that his strike is to “save my family and friends from the visits and the high cost after my [detention] was prolonged, and the cases multiplied.” According to human rights sources and the detainees’ families, visits cost between EGP 500-700, and may reach EGP 1,000 per time.

The story of Mokka, aged 25 years, began with what was known in the media as the Shura Council Case, in which about 25 people are accused of demonstrating in front of the Shura Council, against the trial of civilians before military judges. Mokka was arrested on 25 January 2014, in the same case, after he was sentenced in absentia to 15 years imprisonment. After the retrial procedures, the sentence was reduced to three years in prison and three in supervision.

Later, a presidential pardon was issued for all the defendants in this case, except for him and Alaa Abdelfattah. After completing his full term, in addition to six months, in a case fabricated against him in prison on charges of possessing a phone, his journey continued with years of probation, which prevented him from providing for his family for a whole year. He was also unable to complete his education after he was expelled from college.

During the surveillance period, Mokka published, in early July of last year, that he had been subjected to sexual and verbal assault by a policeman under surveillance who threatened him with fabricating charges if he spoke or published anything about this assault. Two months after the incident, he was arrested whilst he was being monitored at the Qasr El Nil Police Station to become a suspect pending a new case, to start his journey with pretrial detention and the revolving detention from one case to another.

In both cases, he was charged with the same charges, including joining a banned group and spreading false news despite his complete cessation of any political activity. Since then, he has been released twice, and each time he is detained and rotated onto a new case bearing the same charges.

Mokka is close to death after he exceeded his hunger strike for 50 days and lost consciousness more than once. He was also transferred to the hospital several times, according to his lawyer. On 3 December, Mokka began his hunger strike while in custody in the Abdeen division, after being included in case No. 1056 of 2020, after he was placed for the third time in a new case, which left him in a state of despair and frustration, according to his family. This led him to embark on a hunger strike as a tool to demand his rights and freedom.

According to Sara Tariq, Mokka’s sister, the strike started since he was detained in the police station, and it is still going on. She has still not communicated with him since his transfer to Tora Prison. She confirmed that her brother is on hunger strike to protest his rotation on a new case after his release in his last case, as he told them about this before his transfer to Tora Prison.

According to the page Freedom for Abdel Rahman Tariq (Mokka), he is a human rights defender in Egypt and works at the Nidal Centre for Rights and Freedoms, which is concerned with defending the right to freedom of expression and the rights of prisoners, especially in cases of enforced disappearance. Regarding his health condition, Mokka suffers from kidney problems and chronic high blood pressure, according to the hospital report, in addition to his need for periodic follow-ups so that his kidney problems do not worsen.