Detainee Esraa al-Taweel sobbed as a judge renewed her pretrial detention for another 45 days on Monday. She begged the court to let her go home and receive critically needed medical treatment, her lawyer told Mada Masr.
The 23-year-old has been held at Qanater Women’s Prison for 155 days now on charges of belonging to a terrorist organization, disseminating false information and disturbing the peace.
“Upon hearing the judge’s claims, Esraa cried as she insisted that she is not a member of the Muslim Brotherhood,” defense lawyer Halim Haneish told Mada Masr. “She has similarly denied the other charges against her.”
Taweel was shot in the back on January 25, 2014, when security forces dispersed a protest marking the third anniversary of the 2011 uprising. The bullet inflicted a debilitating spinal injury that temporarily paralyzed her legs. She was confined to a wheelchair for several weeks, but as she received intensive medical treatment and physical therapy, she was gradually able to walk with the aid of crutches.
Her family says that her health is now deteriorating as prison doctors refuse to give her critically needed treatment, and they fear that she could become permanently paralyzed.
Her sister, Doaa, previously told Mada Masr that while Taweel’s cellmates assist her in massaging her foot and leg, “this is not professional physiotherapy and they are not specialists, nor do they have the necessary medical equipment to properly treat her.”
Photos of Taweel in her white prison robes weeping in the Tora Prison Academy’s court room as she holds herself up on crutches went viral on social media networks under the hashtags #EsraaAlTaweel and #FreedomForEsraaAlTaweel.
“Thanks for her tears, not because it hurt our hearts but because it revealed that we still have hearts, and they hurt,” tweeted former presidential candidate Ayman Nour.
The photos were also published in several local news portals, as well as on the Facebook page for the grassroots Freedom for the Brave campaign, who declared, “Down with the state of oppression and subjugation.”
Taweel was arrested on June 1 with her friends Sohaib Saad and Omar Mohamed, who have both been referred to military trial on terrorism-related charges. Their families were not informed of their arrest at the time, and the whereabouts of the three young people were unknown for weeks until they were spotted in prison. Local rights groups say that security forces have forcibly disappeared hundreds of people in recent months.
In September, Amnesty International issued a petition to the Egyptian authorities demanding Taweel’s immediate release, arguing that there were no concrete criminal charges against her.
“All defendants are supposed to be considered innocent until proven guilty before a court of law. However, what we have here is that defendants are detained for months on end, merely on suspicion of guilt,” Haneish argued. “As is the case with countless others, if there is no solid evidence against Esraa that can be presented, then she should be unconditionally released. The fact is, there is no evidence against her.”