Detained human rights lawyer Mahienour al-Massry told family members of deteriorating conditions in Damanhour Prison during their visit with her on Saturday.
Massry’s family has not been able to get food and basic hygiene supplies to her for a few weeks, forcing Massry and other detainees to rely on the prison canteen — which many prisoners cannot afford, her sister Maysoon al-Massry recounted in a Facebook statement on Saturday.
Cells are overcrowded, as more prisoners were brought in recently from Mansoura prison. Massry is being held in a five by six metre prison cell with 27 other women. “This literally means women sleep on top of each other,” the statement asserted.
Water shortages inside the prison are exacerbating the problem, according to Massry, as prisoners only have access to clean water for four hours a day. There is a filthy bathroom inside the cell, threatening inmates with hygiene issues.
The family appealed to the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) to investigate the matter, adding that Massry has complained to the prison administration about conditions.
In June 2014, Massry was awarded the Ludovic Trarieux Human Rights Prize, given annually to a lawyer who illustrates their activity or suffering in defense of human rights. She was awarded the prize while serving a prison sentence for protesting in solidarity with victim of police brutality Khaled Said.
Massry is currently serving a two-year sentence, handed to her and nine others in February 2015, for breaking the Protest Law and demonstrating on behalf of other lawyers and members of the Dostour party that had allegedly been physically assaulted by police from Alexandria’s Raml station in 2013.
Massry joined a wave of prison hunger strikes in 2014 over conditions and to demand the release of other political detainees.
In May 2015, several lawyers staged a protest to demand Massry’s release in front of Raml station.
The government is under increasing pressure to improve the standards and transparency of prisons and police stations. The NCHR published a report on August 10 claiming that prisons have had a 400 percent increase in detainees.
Dozens have died while in police custody or prison in recent months, with relatives citing deliberate medical negligence. The Interior Ministry has been accused of withholding essential medication from detainees and refusing to transfer them to hospital when they are in serious conditions.
The Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence released a report in June to mark the first anniversary of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s election. The report alleged that in addition to the 272 people killed by police forces during Sisi’s first year in office, there were also at least 97 cases of serious medical negligence in jails and prisons.