CAIRO: Activist Philip Rizk described his four-day detention by state security on Thursday in a press conference held in his Maadi apartment in Cairo.
Rizk, who turned 27 yesterday, was abducted from the Abu Zabal police station, Qaliubiya after a peaceful solidarity march for Gaza.
“I was taken by force from the police station. Officers distracted my lawyers, leaving me alone. I was put in a microbus which drove back and forth for over an hour before I was taken to a police station. They handcuffed and blindfolded me before I was driven to another station where we waited. From there we drove somewhere else, the final destination.
Rizk, who appeared calm and composed during the 40-minute press conference, says that he was kept blindfolded and handcuffed for the duration of his four-day solitary confinement, except during interrogations, when they would sometimes remove the handcuffs.
“But if they weren’t pleased with my answers they put the handcuffs back on, he said.
Rizk, who spent two years doing humanitarian work in Gaza and writes a blog about Gaza, says that he had no clear idea why he was arrested.
“When they arrested me I didn’t know what it would be about – perhaps because I lived in Gaza, or the blog.
“When interrogations began the first thing they said to me, ‘Everything in your head, we want to get it out. Start at the very beginning.’
Rizk says that the interrogations continued throughout the four days.
He says that he was held in a 2 x 1.5 meter cell equipped with a urinal. Officers instructed him not to touch his blindfold, not to speak unless spoken to, and to talk quietly.
Rizk was taken to his apartment during his detention.
“On the second day after my arrest I was brought to this apartment at 4 am with a large group of police officers. There was a truck behind me with 20 Central Security Forces inside.
“Ten people escorted me up. They took every electronic item out of the apartment, as well as documents and my MA research notes.
His parents’ home had been searched – while the family were at home – three hours earlier the same night.
Rizk was told that his personal belongings will be returned to him within a week and that he will collect them from the state security investigations headquarters in Maadi.
While he was not physically harmed during the detention he was subjected to severe psychological stress.
“They never physically touched me in any way during the four days but used all sorts of torturous ways of interrogating me, accusing me of being a spy for Israel and working with Hamas. They said, ‘We know you have the information, you just need to confess.’
“They also said that since I am a Christian working in a predominantly Muslim area I must be evangelizing. I asked them whether I should only help Christians. They said, ‘yes’.
“When they walked me from my cell they tried to confuse me, walking me different routes, it was all part of having no real sense of space, Rizk told reporters.
“Sometimes I heard sounds of people being tortured around me. The officers interrogating me said, ‘You’re a cultured person and you know what will happen to you if you don’t change the way you’re talking.’
“They said that if I continue on this track I would visit them quite often.
Mostafa Hussein, a psychiatrist with the Nadim Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence believes that Rizk is a victim of torture.
“Philip’s account of his kidnapping and detention – which included incommunicado detention, blindfolding, threats of harm, handcuffing and solitary confinement – constitutes torture despite the fact that he has not been physically harmed, Hussein says.
“This is a form of severe psychological pain and suffering according to the definition under the United Nations Convention Against Torture, he continued.
Rizk was eventually released without charge and dropped off at his Maadi apartment at 2 am on Wednesday.
He was never informed of the exact reason why he was being held.
Rizk has no idea where he was held during the four days of his detention, but says that the journey from the place he was held to his home took roughly 25 minutes.
Throughout his detention, Rizk says he was comforted by the knowledge that his friends knew what had happened to him.
“I knew that there were people on the outside that knew what was going on and I had some faith that it would be OK.
Rizk was concerned to point out that he wishes more attention be given to the situation in Gaza, than to his own detention.
“The reason I had been on the street and protesting was to make a statement about the siege on Gaza, which has been ongoing for many years, [and has] taken a more intense form in the last year and a half after Hamas took power.
“I’d like to highlight that I was quite fortunate in how I was treated and how quickly I got out. I know that a variety of groups helped me and most other people don’t have this kind of treatment and exposure.
“Being a dual citizen plays a big role, I have amazing friends around the world and here, who put pressure in whatever way they can … I don’t think [state security investigations] were prepared for this.
“I don’t want attention to be on four days of detention because I want to focus on the people who are living in what I consider to be a prison in Gaza.
Rizk also drew attention to another blogger, Diaa Eddin Gad, arrested in connection with pro-Gaza activities.
“Diaa Gad called me a few days before he was taken, he had called me and inquired about this march. During my interrogation they asked me about him.
Gad’s whereabouts are currently unknown.
Rizk was forced to hand over his email password during his detention and state security officers have now tampered with his blog.
“It’s a horrible feeling when things start to sink in … I have nothing to hide about my life, but still the fact is they have access to my main email. They’ve seen every email, every piece of personal information, they’ve taken down the blog I’ve worked on since 2006.
Rizk says that he “doesn’t think that anything should change [after the threats].
He said through his family immediately after his release that the pro-Gaza activities he was involved in should continue.