This is why Egyptian opponents abroad fear Khashoggi’s fate

Warning: This story contains graphic descriptions of torture.

The American report on the assassination of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi raised fears in Egypt that similar practices will be used against opponents of the regime abroad. The report accused Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his regime’s pillars of intentionally kidnapping and killing Khashoggi.

In a statement, Egyptian opposition figures called on US President Joe Biden’s administration to take action against Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s regime, whom they accused of committing crimes that outweigh the ugliness and terror of Khashoggi’s murder. A Saudi assassination team carried out Khashoggi’s killing inside his country’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2, 2018, and his body has not been found yet.

The opponents said in a statement that what they called “the dictatorial ruling regime in Egypt” has committed many crimes that outweigh the ugliness and terror of Khashoggi’s murder. The statement mentioned some of the Egyptian regime’s crimes, saying that they include the military coup against the elected authority in Egypt in 2013 and the subsequent crimes of genocide that killed thousands of Egyptians that were documented by international human rights organisations. It added that there are tens of thousands of murders, torture incidents, enforced disappearances, and the implementation of death sentences in trials that did not meet fair trial conditions. The Egyptian opponents asked: “Does the democratic American administration headed by Biden have the ability to set the record straight and abide by the principles of justice and American values?”

According to observers, Egyptian opponents abroad are counting on Biden’s intervention to pressure al-Sisi over freedoms and human rights. In contrast, Cairo says that its relations are balanced with Washington and based on cooperation and common interests and is not afraid to talk about human rights. Simultaneously, Democracy Now for the Arab World (Dawn), a human rights organisation founded by Khashoggi, published a testimony of a former Egyptian detainee who was arrested in 2014 and moved between the headquarters of the National Security Apparatus, Al-Azoly Prison, and Scorpion Prison, and was subjected to horrific torture.

To protect his personal security and the safety of his family members in Egypt, the detainee, whose name was not released by the organisation, said that he was arrested from his workplace at a pharmaceutical company in January 2014, and the Special Forces detention squad took him to his home and beat members of his family.

Among those attacked was his 72-year-old mother, who lost some of her teeth due to the assault. He explained that when he asked the officer not to assault his mother, the officer told him: “We are infidels; if our Lord came down, he would do what he does in you now.” He added that he was taken to the National Security Agency headquarters and was subjected to torture through suspension and electric shocks for 24 hours to force him to confess to committing an incident of violence. He said that National Security officers threatened him and said that if he did not confess that they would send him to a place where “even God will not be able to do anything for him.” After the detainee was transported to Al-Azoly military prison he was stripped and tied with a chain from his head through his chest to his stomach and feet. His hands and feet were tied.

The soldiers sent electric shocks through the chain, which in turn transmitted electricity through his body and he would scream in pain. He confirmed that he saw in the military prison hundreds of Sinai residents, including the elderly, children, and women, and said that he witnessed with his own eyes field executions at close range by officers in cold blood during interrogation and torture sessions. He narrated an incident according to which an elderly detainee felt very tired. When he told an officer that he needed urgent treatment, he took out his pistol and shot him with two bullets in the head and told everyone: “This is the fate of those who feel tired here.”

He said that he lost consciousness at one point due to torture, so they took him to the hospital, but he was surprised that the military doctor told the officer that he was healthy and that he could resume his torture sessions. He recalled hearing the noon call to prayer whilst being tortured and the officer overseeing his torture said that he would go to pray and then return to resume the torture. He did not return for eight hours, and he remained in this uncomfortable position until he lost consciousness due to the severity of the pain.

He added that the officer who was torturing him noticed a scar from an operation in his lower abdomen, so he opened the wound with a razor blade, then inserted a wire into it and connected it to electricity. He felt that his soul was coming out of his body from the intensity of pain. He confirmed that Al-Azoly Prison held about 1,800 detainees in appalling conditions, torture around the clock, and field executions.

The former detainee said that he was transferred from the military prison to the Supreme State Security Prosecution. There he met the public prosecutor who showed him a statement by the Ministry of Interior accusing him and others of committing a violent incident, asked him to confess, and threatened to return him to Al-Azoly Prison where he would be tortured to death if he did not confess. When the detainee told him that he is supposed to protect him as a prosecutor, the latter told him: “I am not your mother!”

He confirmed that an officer inside the public prosecution office told him that they were sure that he had not committed any violent incident. When he asked him why he was forced to confess, he was told it was so the officers who accused him of committing the incident would not be in the wrong. He added that he was forced to confess under these threats, so he was transferred to the notorious Scorpion Prison in Cairo, where he stayed for two and a half years.

He narrated horrific incidents from inside Scorpion Prison, including the prevention of treatment for a sick detainee until his stomach exploded, leaving others to die from various diseases without treatment, and that once the detainees were starving for four days and then each detainee was given a rotten loaf of bread. He stressed that he and the other detainees discovered carcinogenic substances in their food, so most of the prisoners had chronic diseases.

The former detainee said that he was released after being removed from the Scorpion and staying for a month in a place known as “the National Security Refrigerator.” He added that after his release, he fled to Sudan by land, without identity papers, and decided that he would not return to Egypt because of the ugly injustice there. He revealed that most of his sisters were arrested simultaneously with him and stayed in different prisons for two years and that his elderly mother was travelling to visit them and was crying from the hardship of travel. He explained that he travelled from the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, to Istanbul after the Turkish authorities granted him a travel permit with a single-use document. He was threatened with deportation from Khartoum to Cairo. He concluded by saying that his mother died while in Istanbul and he was unable to attend her funeral.