Hunger-striking journalists transferred to prison hospital

Journalists Hesham Gaafar and Hossam al-Sayed were transferred to Tora prison hospital as their health deteriorated due to lack of food and poor prison conditions, according to Gaafar’s Facebook page.

Both journalists commenced a hunger strike on Thursday, along with seven other journalists, in protest over “the slow death they are facing,” according to an open letter to the Journalists Syndicate.

Gaafar, CEO of the Mada Foundation for Media Development, was arrested in October when police raided the office in 6th of October City. He is currently being investigated by the Supreme National Security Prosecution on charges of belonging to an outlawed group and “international bribery.”

Gaafar’s wife, Manar al-Tantawy, told Mada Masr she has been given no update on his condition, but heard from several sources that he was moved to the prison hospital. “They [authorities] are being silent on the whole thing, especially since he started his hunger strike,” she said.

Tantawy is coordinating with her lawyer to try to visit her husband on Monday, but is not guaranteed access. She last saw him in prison in January. A number of families have complained of being arbitrarily turned away when trying to visit their relatives, with some waiting overnight.

There have been several recent reports of what relatives of inmates describe as inhumane conditions at the notorious maximum security Aqrab Prison in the Tora Prison complex. In December, the state-run National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) made a number of visits to the prison following media attention.

Prison authorities briefly relaxed their control over visitation rights and allowed inmates to receive food and clothing after the NCHR inspections, but restrictions have been imposed again, according to families. 

Tantawy says she won’t try to convince her husband to end his hunger strike. “I can’t talk to him about it, I just want to make sure he’s ok.” 

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