“I arrived this morning as we couldn’t come to the morgue last night because of the curfew. We learned from the list of names of the deceased inmates published online that two of them are relatives,” says Ali Gomaa, speaking from the Zeinhom morgue, where 37 corpses of Islamist inmates were transferred following their killing in unclear circumstances on Sunday afternoon.
They had been detained in the aftermath of the dispersal of the Rabea al-Adaweya and Nahda Square sit-ins, which were set up by the Muslim Brotherhood demanding the reinstatement of deposed President Mohamed Morsi. According to the Ministry of Interior, the inmates died of suffocation as the police fired tear gas to abort their prison escape attempt.
But Brotherhood supporters say otherwise.
In a press conference at the Doctors Syndicate, Mostafa Azab — coordinator of the Front for the Defense of the Detainees of the Coup — explained that security forces have given their lawyers different scenarios about what happened. In one instance, lawyers were told that prisoners detained in Abu Zaabal prison tried to escape and security forces fired tear gas at them to prevent them from doing so. The head of the prison, however, has denied there was any jailbreak attempt, Azab claimed. Meanwhile, other security sources allegedly told the lawyers that some prisoners tried to escape when 700 were being transferred to Abu Zaabal prison and police fired tear gas killing 36 people. However, police stations contacted by the front’s lawyers said there were no transfers arranged from any police station to the prison at that time.
Azab added that families of the deceased inmates found evidence of torture on the bodies of their relatives, and claimed that the morgue authorities were refusing to issue death certificates unless they agreed to sign a statement citing suffocation as the cause of death.
Access to other detainees is completely blocked, Azab added.
Azab’s account was corroborated by Gomaa as well as others in the morgue with whom Mada Masr spoke, who also talked about signs of torture on the bodies of their relatives.
“The prosecution came at dawn to the morgue and prepared all the paperwork and now they want to make us sign something that says our relatives died of suffocation, and we refused,” Gomaa said. He explained that they moved to the nearby prosecution office and asked prosecutors to help them at the morgue to change the autopsy reports, but they would not. “We sent one of our relatives to file a complaint with the prosecutor general.”
Gomaa added that there was an attempt to separate prisoners belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood from the others, which was probably the beginning of a plot against them.
Meanwhile, a journalist was assaulted at the morgue and as the assailants were trying to force him to erase photos and videos from his camera, he was able to flee. Those who assaulted him had initially said they were relatives of the deceased families, before turning on foreign journalists and kicking them out of the morgue, while insulting them and accusing them of belong to Al-Jazeera. They also turned on relatives of the dead, insulting them, as they waited for the bodies.