Families of Aqrab Prison detainees report maltreatment and torture

Families of prisoners accused of involvement in an assassination attempt on Deputy Prosecutor General Zakareya Abdel Aziz reported incidents of maltreatment in Cairo’s maximum security Aqrab Prison on Tuesday.

Prisoners have reportedly been denied visits, access to food, medication, blankets and warm clothes, as well as subjected to torture.

The State Security Agency investigated previous complaints of maltreatment in Aqrab, before referring the case, involving over 300 defendants, to military prosecution last week.

Samar Nassar, wife of detainee Abdel Aziz Hany, said she only managed to meet with her husband for five minutes on Monday, for the first time since his detention in September. “I hardly recognized him. He had lost more than half his weight and his face is very pale and his hair long,” she explained.

Nassar’s husband was arrested while renewing his car license on September 6, 2016, three weeks before the assassination attempt on Abdel Aziz, which took place on September 30. Her husband went missing for two months, before his name appeared on the list of defendants allegedly involved in the case.

Hany told lawyers he was tortured, beaten and forced to confess to carrying out a number of terrorist attacks.

Similarly, rights lawyer Mohamed Sadek, who went missing on August 30, is among the defendants in the case. Eyewitnesses said he was arrested by security forces from Giza train station, and appeared before state security prosecution in November 2016.

One of the defense lawyers on the case, Osama Nassef, told Mada Masr most of the defendants were arrested and forcibly disappeared before the assassination attempt on the prosecutor general. Another of the accused is Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Ali Beshr, who has been in jail since November 2014.

There are around 140 prisoners involved in this case currently being detained in Aqrab maximum security prison, with another 160 at large and 10 killed by police during an alleged security ambush, lawyer Nassef explained. “Six prisoners are kept in one cell, they are denied access to food, medication, warm clothes and blankets. Four of them are being kept in solitary confinement for no reason. Many students were not allowed to take their exams,” he added.

“Today, when we asked the prosecutor to let lawyer Mohamed Sadek see his elderly mother, he refused, accusing him of being a murderer. I don’t understand how a prosecutor can have a preset opinion in a case he’s examining, and decide to deny defendants their rights,” Nassef said, adding that the State Security Agency has continued to interrogate defendants in the case over the last two days, adding 10 new defendants to the list, despite the referral to military prosecution.

Aqrab prison is known for its strict regulations, with a number of families of political prisoners reporting deteriorating prison conditions and mistreatment by prison authorities. In a previous statement, the New York based Human Rights Watch condemned practices inside the prison.

“Scorpion Prison sits at the end of the state’s repressive pipeline, ensuring that political opponents are left with no voice and no hope,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Its purpose seems to be little more than a place to throw government critics and forget them.”

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