Cairo Criminal Court ruled on Saturday that all defendants in the “Rabea Operation Room” case — including the Muslim Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie and hunger-striking Mohamed Soltan — remain in detention until the next trial session on October 15.
Egyptian-American Soltan wasn’t present in the courtroom due to his deteriorating health as a result of a 261-day hunger strike. His case has received wide local and international attention from activists and human rights organizations as his health worsens under prolonged detention.
On Thursday, Soltan’s family released a statement saying security forces had shown resistance to them visiting him in Manial Hospital, where he was transferred on October 6 after being found unconscious inside his prison cell. Medical personnel at Tora Prison refused to be held accountable for his deteriorating condition.
His INR levels were reportedly 12 at the prison hospital, and he had been passing out frequently and bleeding from his mouth and nose. Some reports have suggested he may have brain hemorrhaging.
Soltan was reportedly handcuffed to his bed rail in hospital, as seen in pictures circulating on Facebook Friday. Security forces claimed he was caught using a physician’s phone, which prompted them to handcuff him. Soltan denied this to his family.
Physicians at the hospital reportedly administered an intravenous sugar solution to Soltan against his will. He had specifically requested only saline solution in order not to break his hunger strike. Soltan refused all further treatment, the family said.
The family’s statement attributed this decision, two days before the court session, as an attempt to temporarily boost Soltan’s condition to counter any requests for medical release his lawyers might demand.
Human rights lawyer Yasmine Hossam al-Din told Mada Masr that a physician doesn’t have the right to force any kind of treatment on a patient or to administer medication without his consent. If the patient is unconscious or not in a psychological and mental state capable of making decisions, permission from a close relative is required.
The force-feeding of prisoners is prohibited by the 1948 Geneva Convention and other international treaties. In the 2006 update of the Declaration of Malta on Hunger Strikers, the World Medical Association states: “Forcible feeding is never ethically acceptable. Even if intended to benefit, feeding accompanied by threats, coercion, force or use of physical restraints is a form of inhuman and degrading treatment.”
The conditions under which artificial feeding can be administered, according to the WMA, are if the prisoner agrees to it, has been placed under no pressure to do so, or if more than one physician rules the prisoner is mentally incompetent.
Soltan, who is the son of Brotherhood leader Salah Soltan, was arrested in August 2013 when the police came looking for his father at their family home. He has US Citizenship and lived in the United States before returning to Egypt to look after his mother, who is suffering from cancer.
He faces charges of terrorism, plotting to overthrow the regime and setting up an operations room, from where he allegedly encouraged members of the group to confront the state and spread chaos following the dispersal of the Rabea al-Adaweya and Nahda Square sit-ins in August last year.
The Freedom for the Brave campaign has said at least 138 inmates are currently on hunger strike in Egypt’s prisons. Demands range from fair trials and better prison conditions to the revocation of the controversial Protest Law.