CAIRO: Four bloggers and activists allegedly kidnapped by Egypt s state security investigations described their experiences at a press conference held at the headquarters of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) Sunday.
A fifth blogger scheduled to speak – Diaa Eddin Gad – was unable to attend. ANHRI Director Gamal Eid said that Gad had sent him a text message shortly before the conference saying that state security forces had prevented him from leaving his home.
Introducing the activists, Eid insisted that kidnapping was the only term applicable to their experiences, since their treatment at the hands of security bodies was completely ungoverned by the law.
Five of the six bloggers were seized without an arrest warrant. Four were subsequently held in administrative detention.
Mohamed Adel was initially taken to the Nasr City state security investigations headquarters after being bundled into a private car downtown.
“I was kept underground in an extremely small cell from where I could hear people being tortured. When you first arrive there is something called the ‘haflet istiqbal’ (welcome party) when you are stripped completely naked and searched. I was kept handcuffed and blindfolded for the 17 days I was held, Adel told the press conference.
As with the case of activist Philip Rizk, detained on Feb. 6, 2009 for four days (and who also spoke during the conference), and Abdel-Aziz Megahed, detained in November 2008, state security officers went to Adel s home and searched it while he was in detention.
He alleges that they “stole things worth a total of LE 5,000 and broke the door to get in despite the fact that they had my key with them.
Adel was then taken to the Tora prison where he was detained for four months under a detention order.
“I was kept in the punishment cell for the duration of these four months. The punishment cell is intended for prisoners who commit an infraction and are sent there for two or three days. I spent four months there. When the public prosecution officer came to check on me, prison authorities changed the sign outside the punishment cell to high security wing and denied that I was being held in the punishment cell, he said.
Eid told the press conference that Adel s case is illustrative of widespread abuse of administrative detention powers enjoyed by the Interior Ministry under the Emergency Law.
“People are held in administrative detention for years, and cases are fabricated against them involving events which occurred while they were in detention, Eid explained.
“A famous case is that of Abdel Meneim Mounib, a journalist who was held in administrative detention for 14 years in 1993. Charges were fabricated against him in 1998. He was found innocent because the case concerned events which occurred in 1996. They then fabricated yet another case against him in 1999. He was again found innocent, but remained in administrative detention until 2007.
April 6 youth movement activist Ramy El-Soueissy was detained for one day and released without charge.
“Three central security trucks and a car came for me at dawn. A state security officer rang me up and said, will you come to us or do we have to come and get you? El-Soueissy said.
“An officer responsible for April 6 [strike] internet activity asked me very strange questions such as, Why do you blog? Why do you use the internet? Who in the Shebab 6 April movement is in a relationship? Who wants to get married?
Helwan University student and Muslim Brotherhood member Abdel-Aziz Megahed was detained in November 2008 while in Helwan s state security investigations office.
Megahed spent 22 days in the custody of state security investigations, during which he was kept handcuffed and blindfolded. He alleges that he was tortured using electric shocks and beaten during this time.
“About a week before they released me from state security they told me that I wouldn t be released until the visible injuries I had on my body had healed, he said.
Appearing before the public prosecution office, Megahed was asked questions including why he uses the internet, what newspapers he reads and his opinion about the concept of jihad, before “the usual charges of belonging to an illegal organization and possessing unlawful documents were brought against him.
Megahed was eventually released in early March 2009. He says that there are some 735 administrative detainees being held in Wady El-Natroun prison, most of them in relation to Gaza activism activities.
His eventual release involved a round trip from Cairo to Minya. Megahed explained that he was released at the same time as three other men, one of whom was from Minya in Upper Egypt. (Freed detainees and prisoners in Egypt complete release procedures in police stations in their home governorate).
The transport truck in which the men were held passed through Cairo but, rather than releasing Megahed and the two other men first, took them all the way to Minya first.
“I left the prison at 9 am and entered state security investigations at 10:30 pm. Of course there s no food or opportunity to go the toilet while you re in the transfer port truck, it s constantly moving.
Eid explained that transfer trucks are, “simply an empty metal box. People have died in them. There s nothing to hold onto inside, nothing to sit on. If it s hot it turns into burning metal. When asked about these deaths by a United Nations body the Egyptian government claimed that it has 12 dedicated transfer trucks donated to it – but in reality they don t use them.
The case of blogger Youssef El-Ashmawy was described by his father. El-Ashmawy immigrated to Saudi Arabia in 2007 for employment.
“In August 2008 communication from him suddenly stopped. He was stopped at a road-check and asked to accompany the police to verify his license details. From there he disappeared before his cousin eventually visited him in a prison, Youssef s father explained.
Youssef s father said that he has had no news about his son for over a month and half now. He added that the Egyptian authorities have not responded to repeated appeals for help.
ANHRI have now raised a case against the Egyptian foreign ministry for “its failure to act.