Egypt Watch

A comical response from the Egyptian Ministry of Interior to complaints of violations of prisoners’ rights

A few days ago, a video circulated Egypt’s social media showing Dr. Mahmoud Ezzat (77 years old), the former acting guide of the Muslim Brotherhood who was arrested in August 2020, complaining to his court of the conditions of his imprisonment, stressing that he has been put in solitary confinement since his arrest, 16 months ago, and he never comes out of his cell. Ezzat added he is even transferred to the court blindfolded, in addition to the fact that he did not see the papers of the case or meet with his lawyers to discuss the defense with them.

What Ezzat said was not surprising to many followers of Egyptian public affairs, as it is known that these are the conditions of imprisonment of many well-known political detainees, especially the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, but was surprising this time was the Egyptian ministry of interior’s unashamed reply on Ezzat complaints. It said Ezzat’s “allegations” are untrue and aim at “distracting the court’s attention to the accusations against him and the crimes he committed.”

Ezzat: A new Morsi

During his trial in the case known in media as “the events of the platform”, Dr. Ezzat took advantage of the court’s permission to speak, to complain of the suffering he is facing in his detention, stressing that he has been in solitary confinement for 16 months and only comes out of his cell when he goes to court. “For all this time, the cell is only opened to me for a few seconds, food is given to me, and then I do not smell the air,” said Ezzat to the tribunal, “sometimes food is thrown at me from a hole in the door.” Ezzat added that he cannot move or breathe even when he is taken out of the cell to go to court being blindfolded all the way.

Ezzat complained that he was unable to read the indictment, as he was allowed to inspect it only for a minute, then it was taken from him before finishing it, and he was not updated with the procedures ordered by the court. Moreover, he was not allowed to hire his lawyers. Instead, lawyers volunteered or were appointed by the court, but by the way, Ezzat was not even told about their names and was not of course allowed to meet them to discuss his defense.

One of the Brotherhood’s lawyers confirmed, in press statements, that Ezzat is put under strict security restriction whether inside the prison or inside the court to isolate him and prevent anyone from talking to him. “This is the same treatment that former President Mohamed Morsi was treated with,” said the lawyer who talked to Mada Misr on the condition of anonymity.

Dealing with Dr. Morsi, including his solitary confinement and denial of communication with his lawyer or family members, as well as depriving him from necessary medical care, leads to his sudden death during his trial session in June 2019, what seem to be the Egyptian regime’s way to assassinate the Muslim Brotherhood leader silently and this is what is being implemented with Dr. Ezzat.

Surprisingly, the Ministry of the Interior responded to Ezzat’s complaint by denying it completely, as the ministry said in a brief statement: “The allegations of Brotherhood leader Mahmoud Ezzat of being ill-treated in his prison are not true, and the aforementioned allegations came at the aim of diverting the court’s consideration from the accusations against him and the crimes that were committed by him.”

Mahmoud Ezzat does not suffer alone

Mahmoud Ezzat’s harsh conditions of detention are not a unique case, but what sparked controversy over it was the release of a video of him complaining. It is supposed that the ministry of interior became aware of the seriousness of the matter, and it will attempt to tighten control over him and prevent such public speeches by him or by other detainees.

For example, Dr. Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh (70 years old), the former presidential candidate and head of the Strong Egypt Party, has been held in solitary confinement since his arrest February 2018 on top of his statements against the regime of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and his call to boycott the 2018 presidential elections because of absence of competition.

Hudhaifah, the son of Abu Al-Fotouh, confirmed that his father is deprived of books, newspapers, magazines or radio, and even reached the point that he is isolated in a separate ward and prohibited from human contact in any form, until the daily exercise time of 90 minutes is only in a limited indoor space, and even he is not allowed to pray in congregation, whether daily, Friday prayers, or even Eid prayers.

Aboul Fotouh suffers from deteriorating health conditions, as he complains of pain in his back and knees, as well as suffering from angina pectoris inside his prison without any medical care, according to his family.

The conditions of detention prompted some of the detainees to commit suicide, such as the detainee Muhammad Ibrahim Oxygen, whose harsh prison conditions, as well as the renewal of his detention for more than two years, prompted him to commit suicide last July, but his life was saved by divine providence.

And last September, the detained political activist, Alaa Abdel-Fattah, threatened to commit suicide because of the harsh conditions of his imprisonment. During a hearing to renew his detention, he said that he was thinking of getting rid of his life as a result of his desperation to improve the conditions of his solitary confinement in the high-security prison 2 in the Tora prison complex. , for two years, as well as the ill-treatment he was subjected to in prison.

Alaa said to the judge: “I am in a horrible situation, and I will not be able to continue that way,deport from this prison, I will commit suicide, tell Laila Soueif (his mother) to take condolences. After the session ended, he told his lawyer: “I know the new case will be referred to trial, and since 2011 I haven’t been out of prison for a whole year. If they want me to die, so I will kill myself.”.”

If the Ministry of Interior denies that Mahmoud Ezzat was subjected to ill-treatment in his detention and asserts that they are “allegations to cover up his crimes”, it cannot deny the complaints of Abu Fattouh, Alaa Abdel Fattah, Muhammad Oxygen and other thousands of political detainees.