On Thursday, imprisoned activist Ahmed Douma’s family learned of the details of his assault, which took place in a court holding area on August 13 during a retrial hearing for the defendant.
Mohamed, Douma’s brother, who was able to visit him on Thursday in Tora Prison, told Mada Masr that, on Monday, his brother — who has been detained since 2013 as part of a trial known as the Cabinet clashes case — was escorted from prison to the Cairo Criminal Court to attend a retrial hearing, and was detained in one the court’s holding cells.
According to Mohamed, Douma was kept in a detention area with several holding cells, all connected by a corridor. He was held alone in one of the cells and was guarded by two police officers, before another inmate was placed in the same cell in order to undergo a search by security personnel.
As the search was being conducted, Douma, surrounded by policemen, was taken out of the cell and made to stand in front of the door with his back to the inmate. It was then that he caught the attention of other inmates, described by Mohamed as “Islamists,” who began to insult Douma and call him an “infidel.” Later, these inmates exited their cells, the doors of which were left open, and physically assaulted him.
According to Douma’s account, as narrated by Mohamed, policemen tried to protect the imprisoned activist by pushing him inside one of the cells and entering with him, shutting the door as they waited for a riot police force, which later subdued the rest of the prisoners.
Following the incident, Cairo Security Director General Mohamed Mansour visited the court holding area, censured policemen responsible for securing and escorting prisoners and listened to Douma’s testimony. Mansour requested to watch CCTV footage but was informed by security officials that cameras were not operating at the time, Mohamed told Mada Masr.
Douma’s defense team said in a Tuesday statement that, one day after the assault, lawyers reported the incident to Maadi’s Prosecutor’s Office, only to find that the officer responsible for securing Douma had already filed a report. The lawyers were able to access the police report, as well as the medical report, which cited injuries to Douma’s face. They were also informed that investigators will take Douma’s statement in Tora Prison.
During the Monday retrial hearing, lawyers noticed Douma’s injury but were unable to communicate with him as he was being held in the soundproof glass cage inside the courtroom designated for defendants during their hearings. Security forces and the bench denied a request by the lawyers to approach their defendant, an incident which the lawyers documented in the session’s memorandum.
Douma’s brother told Mada Masr that this is the not the first time Douma has been subject to harassment and assault as he is transported to and from prison to attend his court sessions. Five previous incidents have been recorded, all of which were verbal assaults. Mohamed added that his brother “is constantly exposed to threats from Islamist inmates.”
On Monday, Douma’s family published a statement recounting some information regarding the incident. The family demanded that members of the National Council for Human Rights visit Douma in detention and be informed of all the details of the assault, and to ensure that necessary measures are taken to protect him.
Douma, one of the founders of the Kefaya and April 6 Youth movements, was a prominent activist during the 25 January revolution, and was involved in the anti-Muslim Brotherhood movement before the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.
The Cabinet clashes trial dates back to December 2011, when protesters clashed with military forces dispersing a demonstration in front of the Cabinet building close to Tahrir Square, leaving 18 people dead and dozens injured.
In 2015, the Cairo Criminal Court issued the activist and 229 other defendants involved in the case sentences ranging from 25 years to life in prison and a collective fine of LE17 million on charges that include illegal assembly, vandalism and attempting to raid the Interior Ministry.
In October 2017, the Court of Cassation overturned the life sentence handed to Douma in the case, ordering a retrial, which began on July 25, 2017. The court will resume the case on September 15 to hear the prosecution’s arguments.
Over the past five years, Douma has been in prison for various charges in three other separate cases.