By Heba Fahmy
CAIRO: Despite official statements indicating the release of protesters who have been detained since Jan. 25, rights activists and opposition member say many more remain behind bars.
Interior Minister Mahmoud Wagdi stated that all the protesters who had been detained since Jan. 25 have been released during a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, according to Al-Wafd newspaper. However, opposition and human rights groups denied these statements.
“After Wagdi’s statements, we contacted lawyers and sources who confirmed that there are still political prisoners in Burj Al-Arab and Al-Wadi Al-Gedid prisons,” Gamal Eid, executive director of the Arab Network for Human Information, told Daily News Egypt.
“One of the reasons we [have called for] a million man march on Friday is to call for the release of the political prisoners who were detained since Jan. 25,” media coordinator for the April 6 Youth Movement, Ingi Hamdi, told Daily News Egypt. “We have contacts in the Hisham Mubarak Law Center who confirmed that there are still protesters detained in Al-Wadi Al-Gedid prison.”
“This is a very serious statement by Wagdi, because there are still 20 Muslim Brotherhood members detained,” prominent Brotherhood leader Essam El-Erian told Daily News Egypt. “Either these Brotherhood members were killed and buried in an unknown location or they’re still being detained by a certain authority affiliated with the former corrupt regime.”
Ayman Nour, founder and head of the Al-Ghad Party, met with the Prosecutor General on Monday and Tuesday to discus the release of the detainees and said the meetings were positive.
He said he was organizing a sit-in front of the Prosecutor General’s office on Sunday demanding the release of political and criminal prisoners.
“I was in prison, I know what’s it’s like to be trapped and I know how to reach these people’s families,” Nour told Daily News Egypt.
He organized a related protest with other activists earlier this week, but it was dominated by criminal detainees’ families calling for their release, citing injustices in their prosecution.
The Muslim Brotherhood and other political activists seemed to be absent from the protest.
“We support the release of all political detainees, not just those affiliated with the Brotherhood,” prominent brotherhood leader El-Erian told Daily News Egypt.
The group, however is not in negotiations with the army or government to release the detainees, he added.
Complaints of injustice
The 200 that demonstrated in front of Egypt’s television building this week insisted that their family members were framed by police officials over the years.
“We want our sons,” the protestors chanted.
Many accused police officers affiliated with former Minister of Interior Habib El-Adly of falsely charging their sons with possession of narcotics in order to get promotions.
Some said their sons were framed because they refused to work as informants for the police, while others, who had family members convicted of murder and rape charges, insisted they were innocent
Sanaa Youssef, a 53 year old housewife, said that her three sons were framed with possession of narcotics because they refused to work as informants for the police.
Mohamed Hosni Salah, 27, a fruit vendor, was allegedly arrested after a brawl with a police officer in 2007 and was sentenced to seven years in prison for possession of marijuana.
“My brother was framed with possession of 25 kilograms of marijuana … this is plain injustice,” Salah’s sister, Soad Hosni told Daily News Egypt.
Pilot Ahmed Abdel Meguid Hussein, 23, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for possession of narcotics.
“He was driving with his fiancée when an officer framed him for possession of drugs,” Hussein’s mother, Laila Hassan, told Daily News Egypt.
“The officer insulted me and my son, so my son couldn’t accept this and insulted him back,” Hassan said.
“My 16-year-old son was arrested in November when he was coming back home from a wedding with his friends and falsely accused of theft and possession of weapons,” Siham Hanafy, 55, told Daily News Egypt.
“They didn’t do anything, yet officers tortured them using electric shocks and beat them in Tora Prison,” Hanafy said.
Prisoners from Qatta and Shebine El Kom prisons told Daily News Egypt over the phone that prisoners were being shot at with live bullets by officers without any justification.
“We’re being treated worst than animals here,” Aly Al Ma’boud, a 29-year-old mechanic currently detained in Shebine El-Koum prison for drug possession, told Daily News Egypt.
“Any prisoner who is shot dead by the officers is tied by his feet and thrown in the sewers,” Al Ma’boud said. “They don’t even give the bodies back to their families.”
Al Ma’boud was charged with theft and drug possession in 2003 and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
According to his wife, he was detained after a fight with one of his neighbors who was well connected with police officials.
Driver Mohamed Qutb, 39, who is currently detained in Qatta prison demanded a pardon for all prisoners detained during El-Adly’s reign.
“Imagine that any prisoner can be shot dead at any given moment without doing anything wrong,” Qutb told Daily News Egypt. “The army is protecting the prison from the outside, but the police officers are the ones torturing us inside the prison.”
Qutb’s wife, Kaaba, said that Qutb was framed of drug procession and sentenced to 25 years in prison because of a corrupt officer who wanted to get a promotion.