Imprisoned activists renew hunger strike; Free Alaa group slams abuses

The Free Alaa Facebook page released a statement on Friday criticizing the prison conditions of several political detainees held in Tora Prison.

The activists were arrested under the controversial Protest Law, a recent piece of legislation that criminalizes political gatherings of more than ten people not authorized by the police.

Founding April 6 Youth Movement members Ahmed Douma and Ahmed Maher and high-profile activist Mohamed Adel were sentenced to three years in prison on December 22 after being found guilty of attacking the police and police property, use of force against the police and protesting in violation of the Protest Law and Thuggery Law.

The charges relate to skirmishes that broke out outside the Abdeen Courthouse at the end of November, when Maher went to hand himself in pursuant to a summons he had received following a demonstration outside the Shura Council on November 26, 2013, which was violently broken up by the police. At least 51 were arrested, including Maher and another activist, Alaa Abd El Fattah, who was accused of calling for the protest.

Since their incarceration, Douma, Maher and Adel have accused the prison administration of refusing to meet their basic needs and uphold their rights.

According to the Free Alaa statement, the three activists began a hunger strike to demand better prison conditions on December 25. After entering into negotiations with the prison administration, which promised to meet their demands, the activists suspended their hunger strike on December 27 until they would meet with their lawyers, who were supposed to visit on December 30.

However, the statement claimed, the prison did not uphold its promises, and the activists resumed their hunger strike on January 1, 2014.

The public prosecution has refused to allow their lawyers to visit, despite the activists’ requests to file complaints and their need to prepare for an appeal date set for January 8.

“It has become clear to the three detainees and their relatives that the Interior Ministry is not solely responsible for their being deprived of their rights, and that the Public Prosecution Office and the Prison Authority are also implicated,” the statement said.

The detainees are reportedly held in solitary confinement 22 hours a day, and are only released for exercise in the remaining two hours of the day, the statement alleged.

They are also denied access to radio, television or books, and are forbidden from sending or receiving mail or telegraphs, the statement continued.

Mohamed Adel’s family was not allowed to visit him in prison. The prison administration told Adel’s father he would not be allowed to visit before January 22, more than a month into the activist’s incarceration.

“Tora Prison’s wardens strive to circumvent our legitimate demands as if their responsibility towards the confined prisoners was only to ensure their physical safety; as if solitary confinement for long hours, the denial of family visits and meetings with lawyers […], and the intransigence in letting them receive clothes and books and deprivation of correspondence — as if all this was not a violation of their rights,” the statement argued.

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