39 deaths in 2022: Egypt’s prisons tombs of political detainees

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September’s first half recorded three deaths of political detainees in Egyptian prisons due to lack of medical care, bringing the number of prison deaths during 2022 to at least 39 victims.

Deaths continue while Egyptian authorities still present prisons in the gardens of God, confirming they are supported by medical services and fully equipped for medical emergencies. This official narrative contradicts the accounts of current and former prisoners about the dire detention conditions they suffer.

The ill-conditioned prisons receive ill detainees. The Egyptian justice system ignores the health condition of the defendants when it regards the political opposition of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and the military ruling. The grilling of ill and old opponents is used to intimidate the people not to protest anything.

The first victim in September was Mohamed Zaki, who died in Gamasa prison. Zaki served a military sentence of 15 years imprisonment on charges of participating in firing Ismaelia Court Complex in 2013. Zaki had a heart disease that required his transferal to Belqas Hospital, but the Egyptian justice did not see his health deterioration enough to release him. The second victim is Shaaban Fouad, who died in Shebin El-Koum Deportations Prison. Fouad was arrested on January 8, disappeared until January 30, and resurfaced in bad health status requiring medical care. Hassan Abdullah Hassan is the third. The old detainee, 63 years, died of a heart attack in Wadi Al-Natron Prison.

Typically, Egyptian prisons are of bad hygiene with record-breaking overcrowding. According to the Egyptian National Council for Human Rights, the prison overcrowding rate reaches 150% and exceeds 300% in police stations. Non-governmental organizations’ estimates are much worse. They have no running water, proper ventilation, and mostly no sunlight inside the cells. In November 2019, two UN experts said abusive detention conditions in Egypt “may seriously endanger the health and lives of thousands of prisoners.” Moreover, there is a consensus on a blunt lack of health care in prisons. According to former detainees, prison administrations obstruct medical care for nothing but to abuse them. Necessary medications are denied entry, and referrals to hospitals outside the prison are prohibited even when families pledge that they will pay the fees.

The Egyptian authorities behave boldly out of accountability. Political detainees are left to die from medical negligence without oversight or legal responsibility. UN experts said detention conditions had directly led to the death of late president Mohamed Morsi, as the former Egyptian president was suffering from diabetes and hypertension, preventing him from obtaining life-saving care. Lack of medical care damaged his eyesight. Gradually he lost sight in his left eye and often fell into a diabetic coma. He suffered from tooth decay and gum infections without medical attention. The coronavirus pandemic has increased the suffering of detainees and led to numerous deaths. According to Human Rights Watch, the outbreak of Egyptian prisons and police stations led to increased deaths because of overcrowding, poor ventilation and a lack of medical care.