Detainee Amr Rabie reportedly refused an offer from a prison officer to change his behavior in return for the alleviation of torture against him, his mother said at a press conference on Sunday.
“Let’s negotiate,” a police officer at Al-Aqrab Prison told the young detainee, asking him to stop praying against “the unjust,” and influencing his fellow detainees.
The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) held the press conference, which brought together the families of detainees in Al-Aqrab in light of a report issued by the National Council for Human Rights last week about the treatment of prisoners.
After a visit to the notorious maximum-security Aqrab (scorpion) section of Tora Prison complex last week, the National Council for Human Rights denied allegations of the abuse of prisoners, claiming that such reports have been exaggerated and that all the inmates are treated well.
Yet, families of the inmates say their kin are often mistreated and in some cases tortured, as well as subjected to intentional medical neglect, which has led to the death of four inmates in the past three months.
Rabie’s mother said that “praying against the unjust” led to prison officers breaking his glasses and the confiscation of his Quran. The inmates were also allegedly severely beaten when their cell was raided after they “prayed loudly.”
She alleged that her son was beaten and threatened with rape, as well as deprived of medical treatment, food, water and personal hygiene items, and was also exposed to the sun and prevented from undergoing medical examinations.
“Former Prosecutor General Hesham Barakat allowed my son to be referred to the forensics department, since he needs surgery on his shoulder, but the prison administration still will not allow it, which may lead to him losing the use of his arm,” she said.
She further explained that the prison administration has taken extreme measures since Interior Minister Magdy Abdel Ghaffar assumed office, including shrinking the visitation period to three minutes, compared to 15–30 minutes in the past, in contravention of the law, which she said stipulates that visits can be up to 60 minutes long.
“What’s worse is being deprived of a visit altogether without an official decision,” she added. “I haven’t been able to visit my son, apart from twice since January.”
Iman Mahrous, wife of detainee Ahmed Sabea, said that her husband was one of three detainees mentioned in the NCHR report, which claims he denied any incidence of torture in prison.
However, she said her husband and fellow inmates refused to respond to the council’s questions, accusing authorities of using them to paint a better picture of the prison administration.
Mahrous claims the three inmates were summoned to one of the offices, instead of meeting the NCHR delegation in their cells.
“My husband’s cell has been raided and everything inside was confiscated, forcing him to sleep directly on the floor,” she said.
AFTE, along with the families of the detainees, issued a report that includes testimonies from prisoners in response to the NHCR’s report.
AFTE claims the prison barred visits altogether from March until May, when it allowed them for three weeks only, before preventing them again from the end of June until early August, in which time several complaints were filed from the families.
The report said that the prison won’t allow prisoners to receive food, clothing and medication, and that their health is deteriorating, they are losing weight and are not being permitted access to necessary surgery.
The report also makes a number of demands of prison authorities, including allowing medication for inmates, granting families access to medical reports conducted by the prison, permitting necessary surgeries, allowing inmates to receive treatment outside of prison and regular medical checkups.
The families also called for their regular weekly visits to be reinstated and the removal of a glass barrier when doing so, as well as extending their visits to 60 minutes. They also called for allowing children to visit, and for personal items to be passed on, as well as for the provision of bed covers, medication and the issuing of a registry for visitors to sign to avoid the prison administration forging visits.
The report also called for installing surveillance cameras in prisons, allowing human rights organizations access to them without prior warning and proper ventilation inside prison cells, among other demands.
Aya Alaa, wife of detainee Hussein Qabbani, said she and a delegation of the families presented the report to Ragia Omran and Kamal Abbas, members of the NCHR, after which they both withdrew from the council and rejected its report.