80 Wadi al-Natrun prisoners join hunger strike protesting maltreatment

­­­More than 80 political prisoners in Wadi al-Natrun Prison’s maximum security facility, Liman 440, started a hunger strike on July 5 to protest maltreatment, according to a leaked letter from the prisoners.

The hunger strike started with three doctors, Saeed Abdel Halim, Abdel Rahman Ghareeb and Hamed Kamal, who were soon joined by more prisoners, some of whom are in poor health.

“The prison administration intentionally places criminal prisoners with political prisoners in the same cell, despite the latter’s demands to be separated from criminals to avoid conflict,” the wife of an on-strike prisoner told Mada Masr.

“Last week, there was some conflict between criminal prisoners and political prisoners in cell six in dormitory two,” she said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “The prison administration then punished the political prisoners by moving them to a correctional facility without probing the cause of the incident.”

According to the source, the prison’s administration often mistreats political prisoners. Students Ahmed Shaaban and Ahmed Mabrouk, for example, were held in the “incoming” cell for 70 days, although new prisoners are typically held there for 10 days, she claimed. There are usually around 30 people in the incoming cell and no access to a toilet, she added.

When Shaaban and Mabrouk were moved to a permanent cell with criminal prisoners, they asked to be relocated to be with political prisoners. The administration responded by “tying them to a pillar in the prison yard, blindfolding them and hitting them,” claimed the wife of another prisoner.

“Shaaban and Mabrouk were then led to the black room,” she added. “The black room is five meters by three and a half, with black walls and no windows, which makes it extremely dark.”

Wadi al-Natrun’s maximum security facilities, Liman 430 and 440, have has witnessed several prisoner protests in recent years due to mistreatment of political prisoners held there. Riot police stormed Liman 430 in May 2014 to crack down on temporary detainees protesting maltreatment by the prison administration. There were unconfirmed reports that the police used tear gas inside one a cell and that one person died.

The violence against Wadi al-Natrun prisoners was condemned by 11 human rights organizations in June 2014, and they demanded an immediate and comprehensive investigation to hold those responsible accountable.

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