A delegation from the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) visited Tora Prison in the Cairo neighbourhood of Maadi on Tuesday to assess the state of the prison and the conditions in which the detainees are being kept.
Board members Hafez Abu Seada, Nasser Amin, Mohamed Abdel Quoddos, Salah Salem, Shahenda Maqlad, and Ragia Omran were part of the group to inspect the prison, including its medical facilities and food services. The delegation also met with prisoners in order to listen to complaints that will be part of a report drafted by the council and submitted to its committees.
Abu Seada told state-owned Al-Ahram that his delegation was granted complete access to Tora Prison and its facilities and were allowed to listen to complaints from detainees.
Tora Prison currently holds a number of high-profile leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and other leading Islamist politicians, arrested in a post-30 June crackdown following former president Mohamed Morsi’s ouster. Abu Seada said that the group met with former presidential candidate Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, who had just arrived from the prison’s hospital with swelling from a toothache.
He added to state television that his delegation met with the Chairman of Al-Wasat Party Abou El-Ela Mady and prominent Muslim Brotherhood lawyer Ahmed Abu Baraka, who he said did not complain of ill treatment during their detentions. Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood Mohamed Badie, Deputy Supreme Guide Khairat El-Shater, and Freedom and Justice Party Chairman Saad Al-Katatny refused to meet with the NCHR delegation, according to Abu Seada.
Amin, during an interview on satellite channel CBC, said the group also met with Deputy Chairman of Al-Wasat Party Essam Sultan, who did not report any ill treatment since his detention at Tora Prison, but criticised human rights groups and the NCHR for being slow to report violations especially at the Rabaa Al-Adaweya sit-in dispersal.
The delegation also met with former governor of Kafr Al-Sheikh Saad Al-Hosseini, who Abu Seada said spoke for approximately 20 minutes about the state of Egypt and legitimacy. The Chairman of the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights added that the rooms of prominent political leaders were equipped with refrigerators and a fan, adding that the cells were in better condition than those housing other detainees.
According to members of the delegation, most complaints were related to lack of television, not enough hours allotted to exercise, short visitor hours, and lack of access to independent newspapers.
The NCHR will also send delegations to inspect other penitentiary, and has submitted requests to the Prosecutor General to visit prisons in Wadi Natroun, Borg Al-Arab, Damanhour, and Fayoum.
Earlier this year the NCHR sent a delegation to Al-Aqrab Prison, part of the Tora Prison complex as part of a strategy to reform penal institutions. Original concerns arose over deterioration of infrastructure, safety criteria, and healthcare, in addition to overcrowding.